The thin lean line

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The Independent Online
CALVIN KLEIN is the mega brand designer whose marketing skills are second to none and whose name and knickers are known the world over.

So if he sees the future in shades of white and off-white, who are we to argue? The collection he showed Friday night in New York was all about texture and shape, since colours were kept to a bare minimum. Klein is fanatical in his pursuit of flawlessness. The clothes in his collections have been reduced and distilled so that nothing jars with their purity. Hence, a long, lean shirt-dress - the best so far at the New York shows, which have been flagging them as the dress of the season - is devoid of detail apart from the tiny buttons at the neck.

The same principle applies to his spring/summer trousers - wide and straight with flat envelope pockets - and his jackets - slim-fitting and soft- shouldered. There are no gimmicks or fuss with Klein's clothes or accessories. The new season's white snakeskin clutch bag on a strap has a simple silver fastener and is no bigger or smaller than it needs to be.

The most frivolous design he is offering for spring/summer 2000 is a cluster of semi-transparent dresses, beaded with a grid pattern, that come with their own modesty-preserving silk-georgette slips.

This just goes to show that Klein remains a devout realist where form follows function. Since 1968, in more than 60 runway presentations, unwearable outfits have been scarcer than a wonky hemline.

Just as few gimmicks were on display when Donna Karan showed her spring/summer 2000 collection in New York the same day. The 51-year-old designer who has said that "you've gotta accent your positive, delete your negative", still bases her designs on this theory. That, along with the fact that she has an incredible knack for knowing what women want, has made her a favourite with working women the world over.

What has been set out so clearly by the American designers, and not least by Karan, is that modern clothes are all about soft, light and structureless pieces. Karan's latest vision was clear from the start, as her first batch of dresses in the finest navy jersey was sent down the runway. If that doesn't sound like an exciting opener, it wasn't meant to be. They were simple, chic and quietly sexy dresses, but above all seriously flattering, skimming the hips, drawing in at the waist and flaring gently to just below the knee.

Karan is besotted by luxurious fabrics - paper-fine leathers and butter- soft suedes - cut into skinny cardigan jackets and cigarette-shaped trousers.

The final line-up of long, fluttering chiffon dresses in pale fruity colours, some with halter-necks and trains, others with asymmetric necklines or plunging front and back scoops, were glamorous enough, although only a very brave, tall, thin, young model could get away with these gauzy veils. Ironically, the hit of the collection was a black silk organza kimono-inspired top, worn with narrow trousers and steep heels - a piece that any shape or age could wear.

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