NEW YORK (AP) — Jeremy Scott fondly recalled an '80s New York that was a lot more grungy. Proenza Schouler did some radical work with ostrich feathers. And Serena Williams focused on female empowerment. Some highlights:
RADICAL OSTRICH FEATHERS, AT PROENZA SCHOULER
A Bernini sculpture. A heart-shaped cutout, inspired by a contemporary New York painter. Fabric techniques from couture ateliers in Paris. "Radical" work with ostrich feathers.
If that sounds like a rather crazy mix to theme a fashion collection, that's fine with Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCullough of Proenza Schouler, who love the fact that they used "a little of this, a little of that" for their latest spring line.
"We saw a sculpture we liked, we took a picture of it. We went on a trip, we put that in," said Hernandez backstage. "It's just the world we live in — a big mix, a lot of spontaneity, just putting it all together and seeing what comes out of it."
That might not work well for everyone, but the Proenza "boys," as they are affectionately called, can make it work because their ferociously complex techniques always produce inventive and unusual clothes.
For this collection, the designers went to Paris to learn new techniques from small ateliers, or studios, that usually work in haute couture.
"We convinced them to work with us — these little mom-and-pop ateliers," Hernandez said. The designers also worked with artisans in Bolivia and Japan.
Woven leather — but so light it doesn't really look like leather at first glance — played a large part in the collection. So did ostrich feathers.
"That woven ostrich stuff was pretty radical," Hernandez said. "No one has ever done that before. Most people do swatches; we had them work for six months to create a piece of fabric big enough to cut a dress out of." From afar, a dress in red and black looked like it was simply trimmed in feathers — but actually, feathers were woven into the entire garment, Hernandez explained.
And then there was the whimsy: For example, a big cut-out heart in a black sweater — right where the heart would be. The shape was taken from the contemporary artist John Currin.
"That heart was a little sort of thank you to everyone," noted Hernandez with a smile.
A SEEDY '80s NEW YORK, AT JEREMY SCOTT
Remember when Times Square was actually X-rated, not G-rated? Jeremy Scott sought to evoke that time in his Fashion Week runway show — but with his usual light-hearted theatrics.
There was even a dress that blared: "Rated X," not to mention garments that announced the wearer as "HOT HOT HOT."
"I was just really thinking about New York City folklore, the early '80s that I've read about in books and magazines," Scott said backstage. "These fun party scenes and these extravagant characters going around on the Lower East Side, and Times Square being seedy and having X-rated theaters."
So there was a decent amount of black, toughened up with zippers everywhere — across the cups of a bra, or dangling around the neck. And there were metal rings everywhere, and hanging garters forming a fringe around the bottom of a skirt.
But there was also a lot of bright color, and sparkly sequins, and shimmering party dresses that, in Scott's words, "look like a UFO landed on it." Yes, with bizarre geometric shapes incorporated into the outfit.
"I wanted to capture this mood, this mix of punk and S&M with kind of a disco glamour, but sci-fi at the same time," Scott said.
Times Square, invaded by aliens? It's just that kind of fondly rendered looniness — oh yes, there was a toothpaste-tube handbag — that brings eager crowds to Scott, often sprinkled with celebrities (Jussie Smollett of the Fox TV show "Empire" was in the house Monday.
Scott likes to keep people in a good mood. "I like the idea that when people are wearing my clothes, they're having fun," he said. "They're living life, and yeah, they're creating memories for people to look back 20 years or so and think, 'Wow, I want to be doing a show on the folklore of that time because it was so crazy!'"
—Jocelyn Noveck and Nicole Evatt
WOMAN POWER AT SERENA WILLIAMS
"She turns her disappointment into triumph. Her grief into joy. Her rejections into approvals. If no one believes in her it does not matter. She believes in herself. Nothing stops her. No one can touch her. She is woman."
So said Serena Williams via loudspeaker Monday as part of a female-power soundtrack for a runway show of her Serena Williams Signature Statement collection for HSN.
Williams interspersed the long-form poem that she wrote and recited on the soundtrack with music from women only, including her buddy Beyonce's "Lemonade."
"I wrote it right after Wimbledon and during the Olympics, and I just was in this moment of, 'I want to empower women,'" she explained in a backstage interview.
"It was right around the time I was asked, 'How do you feel about being the greatest female athlete?' and I was, like, they never ask men that. I wanted to give women strength. I played it for Beyonce and she loved it."
Her older sister was on hand front row to cheer Williams on. So how does Venus feel about some friendly sisterly competition?
"We give each other confidence, so if your sister likes it, you know it's going to be OK," Venus said. "Your sister always tells you the truth. We definitely help each other out and give suggestions. And that's the way sisters should be."
TRENDS? NOT FOR CAROLINA HERRERA
Designer Carolina Herrera says her outlook on fashion hasn't changed much in 35 years and her goal has remained the same.
"I want women to feel elegant and glamorous and chic. Why not? That's what I work for," Herrera said backstage at her Fashion Week show at the Frick Collection art museum in Manhattan.
"I don't believe in trends that much ... You have to have your own originality, your own ideas and to wear the clothes in an effortless way. That is what I'm trying to do," said the designer.
To mark her three and a half decades in fashion, Herrera decided to look back at her inaugural collection in which she featured taffeta gowns, silver ball dresses and denim.
Her collection — in an abundance of black, white, blue, khaki and silver — included shirt-dresses, gingham, tie-waists and a tiered black tulle skirt.
The designer herself was wearing a crisp white collared shirt, a wardrobe staple for her fashion shows.
"People ask me all the time, 'Do you only wear white shirts?' I say 'No, not always. I have other things to wear," laughed Herrera. "But I like a white shirt because it is like a security blanket and I can dress it up or dress it down and it's perfect to wear."
Celebrities in attendance included Kiernan Shipka, Karlie Kloss, Malin Akerman, Nicky Hilton and Jussie Smollett from "Empire."
FEMINIST INSPIRATION — AND THOUGHTS ON A FEMALE PRESIDENT — AT PRABAL GURUNG
Prabal Gurung went on the road for inspiration for his latest collection. With Gloria Steinem.
Not literally. But the designer, who puts lots of research into each new season, read Steinem's recent memoir, "Life on the Road," and was inspired by her journey — and her "strength and stark determination to fight for feminism with a bite." In an interview, Gurung also noted that Steinem, now 82, was a personal hero to his own mother.
How did that translate into Gurung's always luxurious and complex designs this season? "The notion of modern feminism is reflected in a loosening of silhouettes juxtaposed with refined tailoring, creating a fluid offering that gives her the power of choice," he wrote in his production notes.
Backstage before his Sunday evening runway show — which he downscaled to a venue that seats 400, rather than his usual 800, so people could see the detail in the clothes better — Gurung mused further about the feminist struggle, and the possibility of the first female president of the United States.
"As (the possibility) comes closer, we take it for granted," he said, but Hillary Clinton becoming president "would be a huge, big message" to the world. "So for me, I wanted to find out, how did she end up here? I went back to the feminist movement from Harriet Tubman to Susan B. Anthony to Gloria Steinem."
Would a female president be comfortable in the high-fashion items — luxurious cashmere, silk and satin; body-hugging gowns; skirts with high slits — that Gurung sent down the runway?
Gurung pointed to the last three outfits. Usually he might end with a glamorous gown, but in this case, the final outfits were all versions of pantsuits. The last, especially, seemed powerful: a black pantsuit "with gunmetal script embroidery with released chain." In an intriguing aside about the outfit written in his production notes, the designer remarked: "Our backs tell the story no books have the spine to carry."
--Jocelyn Noveck and Nicole Evatt