Tough clothes for tough times at NY Fashion Week

NEW YORK (AP) -- When the going gets tough, the clothes get tougher.

Clothes with a hard edge made their presence known on New York Fashion Week's fifth day of previews Tuesday, a theme that has carried through the early fall previews.

Even elegant Badgley Mischka was more somber than red-carpet ready, opening with an aggressive daytime look and a series of black pieces with a taffeta-wool checkerboard weave.

Tough-as-nails dresses heavy on black and metallics were on the runways of Herve Leger and Nicole Miller, with other designers relying on aggressive hardware or patent-leather trims. The usually girlish Cynthia Rowley presented an almost all-black collection, while Alexander Wang stuck with black and white.

It's a trend that fits with the strong shoulder (and shoulder pads) that have also been prominent on the runways. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week runs through Friday.

BADGLEY MISCHKA

Even in these tough times, you can't keep a good gown down. Badgley Mischka made the crowd wait until the last look for the glitz and glamour the label is known for, but it was there, in all its glory.

The overall tone of the fall collection was more somber than Mark Badgley and James Mischka usually embrace: There was a lot of black and little beading. The finale dress, though, with all-over copper beading delicately covered by black tulle, fused seamlessly subtlety and shine.

The daytime dress that opened the show was barely identifiable as a Badgley Mischka. Still, the brand's socialite fans had some options: A heavily embellished gown might seem inappropriate now, so they designers stuck mostly with satin, draped this way or that to create a little newness.

RODARTE

If Mad Max went to outer space, he might wear Rodarte.

For their fall collection, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sister duo behind the label, embraced the tough vibe that has spread throughout New York Fashion Week, showing plenty of leather and silver mini-dresses with a tattered, haphazard vibe at the Gagosian gallery on Tuesday.

Sleek dresses, most in silver with a few hints of color, were made from layered patchworks of leather, tulle, lace, lame, chiffon and even crystals. The designers fell in love with marbled leather, using it for more than half their looks. Their best were strappy, buckled-leather jackets that went with the tough, thigh-high boots the designers paired with each outfit.

With expressionless models wearing washed-out makeup and slicked-back buns, the effect was something like glambots arriving on a moonscape after a rocky journey.

THAKOON

A disco-ball dress for Michelle Obama? Probably not.

But before Thakoon Panichgul famously dressed the now-first lady, cool model types wore the designer's clothes. That's who he seemed to have in mind for his new fall collection, nevermind that White House social secretary Desiree Rogers was in the front row next to Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour.

The Thakoon runway was filled with graffiti-paint fur - a "so-what?" statement to the down economy, perhaps - narrow sheaths and cool coats. The finale look, a sequined one-shoulder dress with a dramatic bow to top it off was a fine piece of handiwork with the beads appearing to float between layers of tulle.

TAHARI

The most outstanding pieces from the new fall Tahari fashion collection are those inspired by the Japanese cherry blossoms, which just happen to be a symbol of good fortune and love.

Consider those designer Elie Tahari's good-luck charms for the industry with the black cloud of the economy hanging over the heads of retailers, editors and stylists getting their first glimpse of what clothes will look like next season.

That Japanese motif was used for a printed sequin skirt worn with a short-sleeve, cranberry-color cashmere sweater as well as a long printed dress that loosely resembled a kimono. Another black mesh blouse with puffy Victorian sleeves had a delicate Asian floral applique that paired nicely with a narrow pencil skirt.

Tahari also put animal prints - including a leopard-print rabbit-fur coat - on the runway installed at the brand's Midtown showroom.


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