NEW YORK — The fashion pack weathered two major snowstorms, journeyed to Brooklyn via water taxi, got stuck in elevators, and slipped and fell on a chocolate-drenched runway.
Wait, isn't New York Fashion Week supposed to be glamorous?
Meteorological mishaps and logistical gripes aside, it was, and the shows that ended last week boasted a Dolby Theatre's worth of celebrities to prove it — including Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and Diane Kruger at Boss Womenswear, and Jared Leto at Jeremy Scott.
But on the runways, the biggest trend in the collections shown for fall-winter 2014 was a return to real clothes for real women in the grand tradition of modern American sportswear. Rather than designing with the red carpet in mind, designers were making clothes someone over the age of 22 can actually wear to work, including colorful belted cloth coats, statement sweaters, midi-length skirts and culottes made to last a lifetime.
Color, craftsmanship, comfort and joy were some of the words that Joseph Altuzarra used to describe the inspiration for his knockout collection of sportswear in neutral tones enhanced with vivid brights. Among his best pieces were a double-face cashmere wrap coat in navy and cobalt blue, a forest green belted blazer and pencil skirt with splices of magenta color and a body-skimming black silk crepe dress sliced and slit to reveal a hint of skin.
Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez used textural fabrics (boucle tweeds, flocked crepes) to bring new dimension and energy to tailored pieces, including the rounded jackets with sloped shoulders that have become a mainstay of their line. They paired them with A-line miniskirts, sculpted shift dresses or tapered crepe pants.
Narciso Rodriguez's clean, modern tailored pieces had contrasting color lapels and panels that fit together like paper cutouts in a collage, creating modern art on the runway. Victoria Beckham also played with a more fluid silhouette. Her long, pleated midi-skirts with gold chain details at the hip were a must-have.
Thakoon Panichgul came up with colorful ways to beat the winter blahs — a pop of floral print revealed on the lining of a parka here, and a blouse with a printed scarf tie dangling outside the back of a sweater or coat there. Colorful knit shoulder cozies and hybrid dickey-scarves were another option for adding a dash of panache, as an alternative to a basic scarf.
Michael Kors worked a relaxed but polished look in his "Big Sur, Big City" collection with hand-knit sweaters over chiffon skirts, coats and dresses crafted from soft tweeds and herringbones, some embellished with tiny spotted feathers or leather floral appliques. And Derek Lam's offbeat color sense, patchwork leathers, suede culottes and fuzzy coats gave his collection a 1970s vibe.
By contrast, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's collection for The Row was aggressively simple in a throwback 1990s way, but still oh so ultra luxe. They worked with 900-gram cashmere, piling on minimal-looking layers for maximum warmth. Three showstopping knitwear looks — capes, funnel-neck tops and sweater dresses — were made from woven fur and cashmere so thick, the models looked like yetis.
At Marc Jacobs, the overriding feeling was lightness and calm. The palette was pale, the prevailing silhouette a futuristic-looking tunic top worn over slim, flared pants with contrast paneling or pocket details. It made for an uncomplicated, and in some ways inherently American, way of dressing.
But the simple chic chemise dresses with celestial-looking beading, or undulating waves of chiffon, were unquestionably beautiful, bringing to mind Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings of sculptural landscapes, clouds and calla lilies.