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Flowers bloom on runways at New York Fashion Week

Samantha Critchell
Associated Press
Tuesday, September 14, 2010; 3:37 PM

Flowers, those sure signs of spring, sprouted up all over New York Fashion Week runways on Monday.

Marc Jacobs tucked giant, oversized flowers into models' hair. But no one did them bigger than Carolina Herrera, whose bold flowers were inspired by botanical plates from the 18th century. Flowers also bloomed at Donna Karan in muted neutrals, and they peeked through the runways of Tracy Reese and Jenny Packham.

The optimistic symbol goes hand-in-hand with the airy lightness that has prevailed so far at the spring 2011 previews that run through Thursday. These florals were more earthy, soft and natural than fashion insiders have seen in recent seasons. They looked like real flowers -- not perfect, but alive.

MARC JACOBS

A lot of designers have disco danced around a 1970s muse with those billowy shapes, scarf-tied tops, gold lame and long, flared trousers. But Marc Jacobs, probably the most influential fashion force in New York, is the only one who fully asked her to dance.

He had those looks and more, including jumpsuits, hot pants, culottes and those tight striped knits popular when many in the audience were probably in grade school.

The retro vibe was amplified by frizzed-out hair, metallic sparkle eye shadow, floppy hats and giant, oversized flowers in the hair, around the neck or on thick, cinching belts.

There was a bit of a tropical feel to the collection -- it is for spring, after all -- with one top covered in palm-tree beading. The colors included purple, orange and hot pink, all of which are showing staying power through this round of style previews. For good, glitzy measure, there were silver and gold sequins, even on some platform sandals.

TOMMY HILFIGER

For Tommy Hilfiger's 25th anniversary fashion show there was plenty of fanfare. A faux grass runway! Jennifer Lopez! Bradley Cooper! Lenny Kravitz! A huge afterparty at the Metropolitan Opera House with a performance from The Strokes!

But the clothes that were on the catwalk were, somewhat surprisingly, straightforward and wearable.

"I really strive for all-American cool," Hilfiger said in a pre-show interview. In his notes, he cited rockabilly and country clubs, with a twist of audacious color, patterns and proportions.

It's the aesthetic that, since recommitting to it a few seasons ago, Hilfiger has really owned.

On the women's side, the best looks were the casual. He offered eyelet tennis skirts, varsity-tipped sweaters, sunny halters and fitted, feminine button-down shirts. A khaki-colored halter dress with a tie-style back was a nod to the trench trend this season, but a young, sassy version.

The menswear seemed to have more mixed results. Seersucker was a worthwhile gamble, even in a shorts suit, given that hipsters recently have taken a liking to the gentlemanly fabric. But pink bow-ties and leopard loafers?

DONNA KARAN

Donna Karan presented a runway almost completely in shades of sand to capture the essence of "raw romance." From billowy, featherweight dresses to tailored jackets in a stiff metallic twill, the common theme of each piece -- other than the palette -- was a celebration of a strong, confident muse. This woman really could be anyone: young or old, petite or glamazon, working mom or globe-trotter.

When Karan hits it right with her signature line, it's all about speaking to the potential of the women who wear it. She has hit her stride in recent seasons and she extended that streak into next spring, although surely the retailers in the audience wished to see a little more color.

But it was the use of skin tones, from dark to light, that was so effective in conveying a sense of the natural. The sheer trend that's been seen on the runways got its due in slip dresses and a finale gown made of pale gold tulle that disappeared on the model save a pattern of glittery beading.

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG

Diane von Furstenberg knows not to reinvent a good thing. She tweaks just enough to make it fresh and new.

Opening her show was a jersey wrap jumpsuit -- an ever-so-slight variation to the silhouette that has made her a power player in the fashion world and a reliable source of clothes for working women. The rest of the collection was an ode to the goddess, and there was more than one outfit that borrowed from the ancient Greek kind.

Choices for next season will include a key-lime halter paired with jade Bermudas, a purple silk-jersey wrap dress with a hood, a white crepe dress with a plunging V neck and a gold waistband, and a sheer paneled shirt dress. There was even a lame-embroidered hoodie worn with silk hot pants.

"It's a little new for me, it's very fresh, and there's a lot of casual," von Furstenberg said backstage. "So I'm very excited actually."

CAROLINA HERRERA

There was nothing ditzy, dated or dowdy about florals given Carolina Herrera's tasteful treatment.

A crisp white blouse was paired with a slim single-fold black pencil skirt with a daisy for daytime sophistication. A lotus-embroidered illusion blouse perfectly complemented a dramatic white ballskirt that featured a double Korean bow, her replacement for grosgrain ribbon this season.

The seed-packet motif on some looks distracted from the beautiful prints and colors, including bold, bright lipstick shades of hot pink and red, but the bird-print folded dress with its slim, chic shape was a winner.

Herrera's well-heeled woman surely will have many choices for the new season, including the fabulous shoes by Manolo Blahnik done specifically to match this collection.

MAX AZRIA

Max Azria reminded the New York Fashion Week insiders -- and hopefully some shoppers, too -- that skin isn't always the key to sexiness.

The clothes Azria previewed Sunday for his signature collection had a sensuality and sophistication that largely came from the ease of the silhouettes. So many of the dresses grazed the body and had such delicate straps that it was almost as if the models wrapped themselves in georgette or crepe sheets and were merely holding it all together with their fingertips.

Even pants were fluid and draped, reminiscent of old-school, glamorous loungewear.

BETSEY JOHNSON

Betsey Johnson dressed her bawdy bike tour of New York City in spraycan neon ruffles, sailor suits and flower bloomers before taking her own two wheels for a spin down the runway and flopping to the ground in a "Ride Me" jacket.

Le Tour de Betsey kicked off with a biker babe in a tiny blue bottom and matching jacket and another in green-striped leggings. One tumbled after attempting a skateboard ride in platforms down the catwalk.

The finale was a parade of race-ready lemon tank dresses on models waving black checkered finish line flags.

In between were Johnson's signature puffy short dresses and gowns in a range of colors and prints from black leaves to bright orange, some with hoops and stacked ruffles from mini to the ground.

Kelly Osbourne was pleased, tweeting "This is the best show I've seen all week!" Ciara, Carmen Electra and Denise Richards joined her on the front row.

JENNY PACKHAM

Designer Jenny Packham brought with her from London a spring collection with florals, sheers and beads that fit right in.

The Monday morning show was her first here. She said she made the move across the pond to be more of a player on the celebrity scene. Stars, including Keira Knightly, Cameron Diaz and Jessica Biel, have all worn her styles.

On the runway, she offered many red-carpet choices -- a long tulle gown with an explosion of shimmery sequins, and 1920s-style flapper looks with strands of beads that practically lit up when the flashbulbs were going off. But Packham would really get her chance to make her mark if some stylish starlet tried out her beaded evening shorts. They were refreshing and refined, but are clearly meant for young, tanned legs. An alternative would be the beaded catsuit made of sheer, champagne-colored tulle.

ADAM

How about a little light with your white? Fashion designer Adam Lippes certainly put that order in with his spring collection, creating an effortless-yet-relatable vibe.

And, for good measure, there was some navy and khaki tossed in to his preview at New York Fashion Week, as well as peach, copper and denim, which is slowly but surely making a return to the runways.

Lippes' looks, shown at Lincoln center on Saturday, had a bit of a country-club feel, but this wasn't your mother's club: It was one where a sheer cotton voile shirt was paired with white denim sailor pants, and a textured linen blazer complemented a buttery leather skirt.

ZERO + MARIA CORNEJO

Chilean-born Maria Cornejo went back to her roots and mixed her South American heritage with urban chic.

At Zero + Maria Cornejo, it was all about volume and draping, with many looks giving a modern, cutting-edge vibe in mostly black, white and graphite, mixed with some pistachio and coral. There were also prints including a marble print, a tribal one and another with a meshy feel. But it was the use of drapery and volume that made the clothes stand out.

"We are always looking for our heritage," she said. "I like color. I like the easiness. I like life."

WHITNEY EVE

Calling all sophisticated, career-oriented girls: Whitney Port wants to dress you.

The star of "The City" presented her spring 2011 collection on Saturday during New York's Fashion Week for her line Whitney Eve and it was all bright, airy and very feminine.

"Girls are looking for something that can go from day to night," she said. "I tried to provide something for everyone they are comfortable with." There was a black and pink striped short dress, while another model wore olive green harem pants that were tapered at the ankle with a black and white striped blazer on top of a black and white polka dot short top that revealed a little stomach.

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AP reporters Leanne Italie, Lisa Orkin Emmanuel and Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.

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