NEW YORK - The story of New York Fashion Week has been told in mostly black and white - making it that much harder to ignore all the unusual prints on the runway.
Forget pretty florals or polka dots. Carolina Herrera showed an abstract geometric print on Monday, while Tommy Hilfiger was inspired by ropes at his runway show on the High Line, the outdoor, above-the-concrete outdoor walkway on Manhattan's West Side.
In earlier previews, Thakoon Panichgul had playful birds, Suno had a retro cellphone print and Jason Wu had prints reminiscent of an X-Ray. At Rebecca Taylor the print was Hawaiian, with fish scales at Monique Lhuillier and "space clouds" at Nicole Miller.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week continues through Thursday before the fashion crowd heads to London, Milan and Paris.
When you're Carolina Herrera, there is no reason to stand in your stiletto heels way out on a limb. Herrera tweaked her signature chic look just enough to be in line with some of the emerging trends without straying too far from what her woman likes.
She moved everything a bit away from the body and she played a lot with hemlines. Herrera gave a name to the popular dress length just a tad below mid-calf that's graced many catwalks during these previews for editors, buyers and stylists: the "longuette" dress.
But to go with the vibe of relaxed glamour that also has been pervasive, she trimmed pantsuits into shorts suits, even for evening, turning out black wool cropped jacket with white piping paired with black wool flounce shorts, and a cream-colored distressed organza jacket with pleated shorts, both decorated with gold "lightening" embroidery.
Her usual ballgown evolved into more of a slip-style gown with floral embellishment. There was a purposeful mix of romantic fabrics and details with the modern print and pale shades of blue, green, gray, orange and yellow.
A different set of rules apply when you're out on the high seas, and that goes for fashion, too. Tommy Hilfiger embraced the sailing life and nautical themes for his spring women's collection, infusing a relaxed attitude into his favorite tailored shapes.
Menswear-inspired pantsuits were done in a playful rope print and swimsuits got waistbands - one even got a shirt-style collar. Time for evening cocktails? The choices are a flowing red trapeze dress with an open back and braided straps, a school-boy navy blazer and slim Bermuda shorts or an oversized varsity cardigan that goes right over a bikini.
"This is the American voyage. She's traveling the world and it's about sea and land. It's about nautical and safari," Hilfiger said Sunday in a backstage interview.
The designer said he could imagine Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Lauren Hutton types in this wardrobe. They like luxury but nothing too fancy.
Carmen Marc Valvo left behind the minimalism and clean lines of fall in favor of flowing glamour in voluminous lace cocktail dresses and red carpet gowns.
Choosing an elegant, all-white venue on Sunday, the spring collection was Asian-inspired in origami folds of organza at the chest and waist, Kimono wrap constructions and yin-yang combinations of Chantilly lace and brocade.
Valvo was inspired by Samurai breast plates when he created panels of glass, square-cut sequins for chest pieces over lace.
"Last fall it was very minimal," Valvo said after the show. "I'm feeling a little more hopeful right now and I think the collection reflects that. I thought it should be a little more grand, more regal. I wanted volume. I didn't want to be afraid."
Spring isn't all sweetness and light, says Wes Gordon. Spring needs some bite. It needs some edge.
That's why Gordon, a wunderkind of New York fashion at only 26, has plenty of black in his Spring 2013 collection, along with more springlike colors of ice blue, ivory and bright red.
Want edge? How about a black feathered tank, embroidered with tulle and encrusted with bits of Swarovski crystal? Or some gray metallic cigarette pants, skintight and also crystal-studded?
Gordon also likes a certain ghostlike quality and hence he peppers his collection with lots of transparent garments, as in a sheer black lace blouse, with long sleeves that travel down way past the fingers.
Gordon is also big on corsets - beautifully fitted corset jackets, for example, with laced-up backs evoking the period dress of centuries past. And he doesn't shy away from prints, either; his favorite bird seems to be a swan, emblazoned on an ink-colored dress or an orange silk blouse.