- Associated Press - Monday, September 13, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Flowers, those sure signs of spring, sprouted up all over New York Fashion Week runways on Monday.

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.

The one designer who could turn it all upside-down _ Marc Jacobs _ presents his collection Monday night. The designer, touted as the most influential in the U.S., has been known to change the tone of New York Fashion Week with a single move.

The florals seen Monday on the fifth day of New York Fashion Week previews were more earthy, soft and natural than fashion insiders have seen in recent seasons. Forget the Laura Ashley wallpaper look, or last spring’s dark, painterly versions. These looked like real flowers _ not perfect, but alive.

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.

“Mad Men’s” Christina Hendricks was among the celebrities in the front row, giving the flashbulbs a workout. She had her eye on a canary-yellow pleated dress. “I’m in love with it.”

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?

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