New York Fashion Week: No fear at Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler, more

New York Fashion Week: No fear at Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler, more
Model Karlie Kloss presents a creation from the Fall 2015 collection by Michael Kors during New York Fashion Week on Feb. 18, 2015. (Peter Foley / EPA)

"Restrained elegance" is how Michael Kors described his fall collection, with a bit of a wink, no doubt. Want to wear your pajamas to dinner? He had 'em covered in crystals. A coat feels too formal? How about an ombre fox fur "bathrobe" instead?

Even in this dressed-down, no rules, sweatpants nation fashion moment, Kors can play along. Because when it comes to over-the-top casual, he's the man.


In the process, he ticked off many of the season's runway trends, including tweedy, menswear-inspired tailoring; military accents; knit dressing; frilly, feminine blouses, and effortless evening wear. He had the low-key accessories too, namely the fur stole as scarf (preferably belted over a jacket), and the throwback 1990s, no-nonsense, lace-up clodhopper shoes.

And in Kors' world, restraint doesn't have to mean sacrificing sparkle either, as demonstrated by the gold bouillon embroidery on the cuffs of a military coat, tubular jet black beading in the folds of a pleated skirt; and gumball-sized clear crystals scattered over the aforementioned silk evening pajamas.

Some of it was familiar territory for Kors, that's true, but when you're so good at it, why not make a return trip?

From Carolyn Besette's famous wedding slip dress, to pop singer Lorde's Golden Globes pants suit and bra top red carpet look, Narciso Rodriguez has been refining his brand of restrained elegance for years, and proving that minimalism and sex appeal are not mutually exclusive.

This season, he worked a long, lean, liquid-ey silhouette, with crepe, sleeveless shawl collar coats, and skirts and trousers with exaggerated high waists. Underneath, sheer bodysuits over bra tops seemed to toy with the idea of nudity and seduction. The result was a towering female presence, especially with models perched atop glossy black patent leather clogs. (And really, who doesn't want to look like a tall drink of water?)

His finale looks were particularly envelope-pushing, including a white silk, bias cut top that spiraled into a formal wear-type tail, worn over black pants--a new kind of creative black tie. With the Oscars just days away, it was a reminder that red carpet garb can look modern in the hands of a designer such as Rodriguez. If only more actresses would take risks.

The spirit of risk-taking and experimentation was certainly alive at Proenza Schouler. Designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough held their show in the Whitney Museum's former uptown space, and took cues from abstract expressionist artists, including painter Helen Frankenthaler. "Nothing too controlled," Hernandez said of the collection. "Just putting paint to canvas."

Or in their case, scissors to tweed jackets and skirts that were cut into dynamic-looking strips; slashes to sweater dresses that spiraled around the body revealing black oval mesh stockings worn underneath; needle punches, flock prints and doodle-like embroidery to wool trousers, pullovers and plunge-front dresses.

For evening, they used tinsel-like copper embroidery, fur trim, grommets and discs with childlike abandon, creating tribal-looking body-assemblages-as-dresses.

"It was about not feeling commercial pressure or being too precious, just pure expression," Hernandez explained backstage. Had this collection come down another designer's runway, it might be judged differently. But Hernandez and McCollough have a history of adapting artists' techniques to their work. And to see a fashion collection that was more about the creative process than the end result was pretty thrilling.

Jeremy Scott refuses to grow up, which is why his fans love him. In his namesake collection, he celebrated free expression and childlike wonderment by looking to the nursery. There were baby doll dresses, miniskirts and Peter Pan collar tops in toddler-friendly prints featuring rabbits, mushrooms, teddy bears, balloons, hippos and hearts; colorful patchwork outerwear, candy-striped knits and artists' smock dresses splattered with paint, all worn with bright tights and Mary Janes.

From a high minded take on childlike free expression, to a celebration of the trappings of childhood, two very different takes on the same creative impulse: fearlessness.