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.
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?
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
Diane von Furstenberg knows not to reinvent a good thing. She tweaks just enough to make it fresh and new.
The first look on the catwalk of her spring preview came Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week before a packed house that included Sarah Jessica Parker.
Opening the show was a jersey wrap jumpsuit _ an ever-so-slight variation to the silhouette that has made her a power player in the fashion world and a reliable source of clothes for working women. The rest of the collection was an ode to the goddess, and there was more than one outfit that borrowed from the ancient Greek kind.
Choices for next season will include a key-lime halter paired with jade Bermudas, a purple silk-jersey wrap dress with a hood, a white crepe dress with a plunging V neck and a gold waistband, and a sheer paneled shirt dress. There was even a lame-embroidered hoodie worn with silk hot pants.
"It's a little new for me, it's very fresh, and there's a lot of casual. There is a very kind of cool, casual, elegant casualness and beautiful prints and extraordinary solids," von Furstenberg said backstage. "So I'm very excited actually."
There was nothing ditzy, dated or dowdy about florals given Carolina Herrera's tasteful treatment.
A crisp white blouse _ something Herrera herself often wears to take her bow _ was paired with a slim single-fold black pencil skirt with a daisy for daytime sophistication. A lotus-embroidered illusion blouse perfectly complemented a dramatic white ballskirt that featured a double Korean bow, her replacement for grosgrain ribbon this season.
Herrera looked to Korea for inspiration, and some models wore black straw hats traditionally used by male farmers, and many also had their waists cinched by elaborate acetate belts.
The seed-packet motif on some looks distracted from the beautiful prints and colors, including bold, bright lipstick shades of hot pink and red, but the bird-print folded dress with its slim, chic shape was a winner.
Herrera's well-heeled woman surely will have many choices for the new season, including the fabulous shoes by Manolo Blahnik done specifically to match this collection.
Max Azria reminded the New York Fashion Week insiders _ and hopefully some shoppers, too _ that skin isn't always the key to sexiness.
The clothes Azria previewed Sunday for his more upscale signature collection had a sensuality and sophistication that largely came from the ease of the silhouettes. So many of the dresses grazed the body and had such delicate straps that it was almost as if the models wrapped themselves in georgette or crepe sheets and were merely holding it all together with their fingertips.
Even pants were fluid and draped, reminiscent of old-school, glamorous loungewear.
How about a little light with your white? Fashion designer Adam Lippes certainly put that order in with his spring collection, creating an effortless-yet-relatable vibe.
And, for good measure, there was some navy and khaki tossed on to his preview at New York Fashion Week, as well as peach, copper and denim, which is slowly but surely making a return to the runways.
Lippes' looks, shown at Lincoln center on Saturday, had a bit of a country-club feel, but this wasn't your mother's club: It was one where a sheer cotton voile shirt was paired with white denim sailor pants, and a textured linen blazer complemented a buttery leather skirt.
ZERO + MARIA CORNEJO
Chilean-born Maria Cornejo went back to her roots for her spring/summer 2011 collection and mixed her South American heritage with urban chic.
At Zero + Maria Cornejo show, it was all about volume and draping, with many looks giving a modern, cutting-edge vibe in mostly black, white and graphite, mixed with some pistachio and coral. There were also prints including a marble print, a tribal one and another with a meshy feel. But it was the use of drapery and volume that made the clothes stand out.
"We are always looking for our heritage," she said. "I like color. I like the easiness. I like life."
Michelle Obama has worn the label, but Cornejo said she doesn't design for just one kind of woman. She designs for herself and the women that she knows.
"You should be able to look at it and say 'I could throw that on.' Everybody has it in them to look great," she said.
Calling all sophisticated, career-oriented girls: Whitney Port wants to dress you.
The star of "The City" presented her spring 2011 collection on Saturday during New York's Fashion Week for her line Whitney Eve and it was all bright, airy and very feminine.
"Girls are looking for something that can go from day to night," she said. "I tried to provide something for everyone they are comfortable with."
There was a black and pink striped short dress, a black and cream striped dress with puffed shoulders made of black transparent material. Another model wore olive green harem pants that were tapered at the ankle with a black and white striped blazer on top of a black and white polka dot short top that revealed a little stomach.
AP reporters Lisa Orkin Emmanuel and Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.