- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - New York Fashion Week always has its share of memorable moments, the weird and the wonderful and everything in between. Here are some highlights of eight jam-packed days:

A CHANT OF GRATITUDE

To begin, a wonderful scene. Designer PRABAL GURUNG has done a lot to support his native country, Nepal, after the devastating earthquake hit in April. He began his show with the moving sight of 30 Buddhist monks chanting a prayer of gratitude for the fashion community’s help. Gurung then put on one of the more beautiful shows of the week, a tribute to Nepal in shades of yellow, saffron, peach and tea rose, with gorgeous embroidery. “All I wanted to do is show a little of where I’m from,” he said.

STILL DOING THE SPLIT

How many of us can do a cartwheel and land in a split, at any age? BETSEY JOHNSON does it at 73. At a high-octane show marking 50 years in the business, Johnson performed her signature moves before joining a joyous circle of models carrying huge silver “50” balloons. Johnson dedicated the show to a special front-row guest - her 94-year-old childhood dance teacher.

WHY SHOULD A UNIFORM BE … UNIFORM?

Some designers talk forever when you ask what their theme is. THOM BROWNE only needs three or four words. As in: “A Japanese school uniform.” Ever the showman, Browne did it again, presenting a strangely beautiful spin on a simple gray pleated skirt and blazer. He built a one-room schoolhouse in a Chelsea gallery, then let his craftsmanship do all the talking.

SERENA WAS BACK

A year ago, SERENA WILLIAMS had just won the U.S. Open when she debuted her first collection for HSN. This year, things were different: She had just been derailed in her Grand Slam quest with a stinging loss in the semifinals. Still, she showed up - with gracious words for her opponent - to present a well-received collection heavy on fringe, leather and suede, with a killer green motorcycle jacket. Who was that next to Vogue editor Anna Wintour? Oh yes, that was DRAKE. Nobody paid attention. (Kidding!)

KIMYE, TOO

What would Fashion Week be without KANYE, KIM and NORTH WEST? Maybe next year, there will be yet another little West (South? East?) in the front row next to Wintour. Kanye presented his second collection - Yeezy 2 - to a star-filled crowd that included, in the front row, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian, Courtney Love, Common, Michael Strahan and Seth Meyers. As for Jaden Smith, R&B; singer Miguel and rapper Pusha T, they had to watch from the second row. Kanye was also a presence at other shows, lending support to designers like Alexander Wang and Brother Vellies.

POLE DANCING HAD ITS MOMENT

One wouldn’t necessarily expect pole dancing to be a part of a high-end fashion show, but ALEXANDER WANG was pulling out all the stops for the 10th anniversary of his eponymous label. Wang had just ended his stint with Balenciaga in Paris and was returning to focus solely on his own company. As always, a contingent of celebs came out to party: Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, The Weeknd, Kylie Jenner and the aforementioned Kanye. At the afterparty in the same spot, if you didn’t want to watch the bevy of pole dancers you could watch Lil Wayne or Ludacris perform.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

How to make a splash at Fashion Week? Well, besides great clothes, you can pick an eye-popping venue. CAROLINA HERRERA was the first designer ever to show at the elegant Frick Collection on Fifth Avenue, and her models looked lovely strolling through the museum’s garden court in shades of pink. TOMMY HILFIGER, on the other hand, made a literal splash - he built a wooden boardwalk ringed by sand, and his models frolicked in a lagoon.

Then there was GIVENCHY, which showed in New York rather than Paris to mark the opening of its new store. On Sept. 11, it held a star-studded - REALLY star-studded - show on a pier, in sight of One World Trade Center beaming its blue light into the night sky. Riccardo Tisci, the French fashion house’s creative director, worked with performance artist Marina Abramovic on the Waterworld-esque set of walls made of recycled metal and wooden shards. Kimye was there, as was Julia Roberts, Uma Thurman, Nicki Minaj. Steven and Liv Tyler, and athletes Amar’e Stoudemire, Victor Cruz and Russell Westbrook.

A LATIN TWIST

There was definitely a Latin vibe in the air. At OSCAR DE LA RENTA, designer PETER COPPING presented an ode to Spain, featuring lots of pretty black lace, a red carnation print, and even red carnations in every seat. JOSEPH ALTUZARRA, meanwhile, explored his Basque roots, with a casual, beach-ready collection heavy on crinkled white linen, mother of pearl, and espadrilles (come to think of it, espadrilles were also big for Copping, introducing a more casual element at that storied house.)

And at PROENZA SCHOULER, whiz designing duo Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough referenced flamenco and ruffles in a much-admired collection that, Hernandez said, was inspired by thoughts of his own family and history (he has Cuban roots). “A ruffle’s kind of weird,” Hernandez said, explaining the experiment. “A ruffle feels so WRONG. We like things that feel wrong … and (turning them into) something that feels kind of great.”

JACOBS STEALS THE SHOW - WITH A SHOW

Finally, there was MARC JACOBS - who always ends Fashion Week with a bang. This time, it was a really big bang. Jacobs took over the midtown Ziegfeld Theater for his own “premiere,” with a huge jazz band and popcorn and candy and special Playbills. The clothes were bright, shiny and sparkly. And perhaps the best moment was when musician and plus-size model Beth Ditto showed up on the runway. She not only rocked a plunging white gown paired with a feather boa. She did something rarely seen on the runway: She smiled.

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Associated Press writer Leanne Italie contributed to this report.

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