Sporty look dominates the New York catwalks

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The Independent US

In a city of joggers and sports fans, the first trend that emerged at the start of New York fashion week yesterday was pertinent, if not exactly revolutionary.

The neon nylon, grey jersey marl and baseball shirts of the sports fields dominated the catwalk at DKNY for spring/summer 2007, translated as girly, easy-on-the-eye mini-dresses and all-weather parkas with drawstring or eyelet details.

At a warehouse in Greenwich Village, where images of New York street scenes were projected onto walls, the first big-ticket show of the season confirmed that fashion has abandoned prim, bourgeois dress codes in favour of more nonchalant designs - a bright, functional style that recalls the utility sportswear of the early 1990s. Models marched around the square catwalk in denim baseball caps and royal blue windcheaters, layers of racer-back vests in chartreuse and mustard, swinging zippered nylon bags big enough to carry a gym kit. Even the less obviously sporty pieces, such as sequence of A-line tiered dresses, in Indian-inspired colour combinations of purple, gold and rose-pink, had a breezy, unfettered appeal.

While Donna Karan's higher-priced signature collection is worn by serious-minded women like Zaha Hadid, DKNY is pitched to college-aged girls and the tiny belted trenches (in animal prints or strawberry-red) seen here require lithe teenaged legs. Micro-short skirt lengths were accentuated by the foam-soled wedges, which fastened with Velcro straps borrowed from gym shoes.

New York Fashion Week holds the opening slot in the four-week round of international collections, with more than 200 catwalk shows scheduled in the event, which runs until Friday. The hub of the event is a complex of marquees at Bryant Park, where the queen of the wrap dress, Diane von Furstenberg, also showed her new collection yesterday. A British contingent - Luella Bartley, Matthew Williamson and Alice Temperley - also show here. In recent seasons the event has managed to re-position itself from an also-ran to an important testing ground for young designers.

Earlier in the day, Brian Reyes, one such newcomer and an ex-employee of the couturier-to-the-socialite set, Oscar de la Renta, also caught the sports bug. Tiny running shorts cut from silk or transparent striped parkas were an overly delicate interpretation of utility clothing. Who were these clothes for, exactly? Reyes undoubtedly aims to capture the local market of young, uptown socialites - only they could countenance the prissiness of a chiffon bomber jacket - but he faces stiff competition for their attention, and this collection did not yet mark him out as a serious contender.