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The Runways: New York

That warm, fuzzy feeling

Sweater dresses, luxury sportswear and the Wild West from Phillip Lim, Michael Kors, the Mulleavy sisters and Derek Lam.

February 19, 2010|By BOOTH MOORE | Fashion Critic
  • PHILLIP LIM: A poncho is worn over a hot pink silk blouse with ties at the cuffs.
PHILLIP LIM: A poncho is worn over a hot pink silk blouse with ties at the cuffs. (Jonas Gustavsson & Peter…)

From New York — Phillip Lim hit it out of the park at New York Fashion Week by returning to what he became famous for in the first place -- elevating classic sportswear pieces to must-haves with the slightest design tweaks.

In a season when nearly every designer has shown a cape, Lim -- who showed his fall collection Wednesday -- had something extra. The first came in a buff-colored check pattern, paired with a hot pink silk blouse with ties at the cuffs and black suede jeans. Lim acknowledged the sweater-dressing trend too, offering an airy gray mohair with a chiffon hem and a gray merino wool poncho with side lacing.

Winter shorts are a perennial for the designer, the best of which came in denim with a paper bag waist, worn with a fur-trimmed anorak.

If there were any weak link, it was the handkerchief silk dresses, with asymmetrical hems, which didn't have the heft and polish of the rest of the collection. A better evening option was the gold tweed lamé tuxedo, which had a sublime fit.

Michael Kors served up stealth luxe in the form of classic American sportswear pared down to its essence -- a camel-colored mohair cowl neck sweater as fluffy as a cloud, a camel coat in wrinkly, crushed cashmere with a lived-in, "this old thing?" look, and trousers that casually bunch down over platform sandals.

Sweater dressing was on display here as well, with a gold Lurex knit dress featuring an exaggerated cowl neck, and a loden green cashmere tube skirt worn with a silk marocaine blouse.

Other key pieces? A metallic tweed blazer, crushed flannel sweat pants and a camel suede wrap skirt. Furs weren't of the polished, full-length mink variety, but rather the wild and woolly coyote vest variety, expressing a new kind of unkempt glamour mirrored in the model's tangled tresses.

The Wild West is a well-worn theme in fashion, but on Tuesday, Rodarte's Mulleavy sisters and Derek Lam took two decidedly different approaches to it for fall. At Rodarte, the designers said they were inspired by the idea of workers in Mexican maquiladoras walking half-asleep to factories, after dressing in the dark.

Although it was refreshing to see them step away from the aggressively dark glamour of the last few seasons and try their hands at something else, the theme translated into too many romantic rag dresses -- collages of florals, plaids and lace, tulle and pearls -- that felt unfinished.

There was a handful of more salable hits: a sweater jacket in a loose crochet weave that is an update of their signature spidery knits; a draped blanket-print and red-checked miniskirt; lacy beaded undershirts and leggings; and four white dresses that hinted at a move into bridal wear.

Still, the sisters probably make 1,000 to 1,200 pieces a year, tops. You have to wonder how long this label, which some industry watchers are beginning to describe as a self-indulgent craft project, can go on like this.

Lam journeyed to the saddles-and-spurs Wild West, which could have been a cliche had he not turned out some of the week's sharpest-looking sportswear, tailored to city slickers.

There were coats aplenty -- in caramel-colored moleskin with black leather sleeves and gray felt with an oversize, rounded collar -- and must-have jackets, such as a taupe shearling bomber. There were also lots of cool-girl basics, such as a pair of stretch twill and black leather trousers that fit like a glove, and a charcoal suede skirt that hit below the knee and fastened with a buckle at the hip, a variation on the season's emerging kilt trend.

By the time the evening wear rolled out, I was even on board with the blanket embroidery, notably jet black beading on the shoulders of a black crepe evening jacket. Tucked into tuxedo trousers, a draped gray silk chiffon blouse with fringe swinging from the shoulders would play just as well in the city as the country. Add some fab accessories (a birch-colored "powder calf" hobo bag and burnished gold paillette booties) and L.A. women can only hope the next time Lam goes West, it's to open a boutique.

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