Fall 2011 Fashion Week Recap

Fall 2011 runway wrapup

Photos: Imaxtree

Fall 2011 looks from Victoria Beckham, Ralph Lauren and Prabal Gurung

With the end of Fashion Week comes the parsing of trends, relevance, and what it all means. In a nutshell: Fall 2011 is about options.

Color dominated the runways, but those who favor a darker palette weren't left in the cold. Glamour was the catchall theme for the week, though inspirations as far-reaching as Masai warriors and 1920s Shanghai all came into play.

Both the colorful hues—crimson being the week's ubiquitous color—and the repeated themes of elegance and sophistication were part of fashion's comeback from the economic downturn. Classic, somber pieces that can be worn again—despite the season or year—fare better in hard times than bold, overly creative designs. But with the end of the (official) recession comes the end to playing it safe.

The first indication that we were in for a surprising week was Prabal Gurung's show. Gurung may be new enough for his collection to not have a look down but he is still known for his gorgeous gowns. This week, he threw in a gothic flair inspired by Dickens's Miss Havisham, the theme being savage love (perhaps a bit of the Brontës would work as well).

Goth themes were also prevalent at Bibhu Mohapatra (surprisingly) and Olivier Theyskens for Theory (not surprisingly).

Fall 2011 runway wrapup

Photos: Imaxtree

Fall 2011 looks from Rag & Bone, Zero + Maria Cornejo and Thakoon

Despite the dark theme at some shows, bold colors walked many a runway. Rag & Bone sent out a mainly royal blue and orange collection reminiscent of a high school marching band crossed with Eskimos.

Thakoon's Masai- and Versailles (rococo)-inspired show was crimson and blue and highlighted the designer's spectacular draping technique. It was a fresh, new look with one of the more interesting themes we've seen yet.

Thakoon wasn't the only Versailles-themed presentation Jason Wu's baroque collection evoked the palace during its renovation. His show—called austere by some—highlighted a more grown-up vision than his previous looks. Lace, paillettes and crystal embellished the pantsuits, high-waist skirts, and voluminous dresses.

The evolution of the designer was a major concept for this Fashion Week, with more cohesive and adult clothes offered up. Wu's brand has shifted from a perfectly pretty collection in seasons past to a more mature line for Fall 2011, one that has appeal to women of all ages.

Another on that list? Victoria Beckham, whose collection was one of the hits of the week, a feat that surprised many. Beckham has always shown a very chic line but has rarely deviated from her tried-and-true formula of tight, corseted dresses. This season she came into her own, sending out cocoon shapes, voluminous dresses, and loose, draped pieces that hid the curves she normally would have on display.

British design duo Preen, known for their body-con cutout dresses—which only a certain willowy figure can wear—offered up menswear-inspired pieces that managed to flatter the body without cutting off circulation. Dare we say normal mortals (ourselves included) can wear these?

Every season has a retro decade to reference, and for Fall we have the '90s. Glammed-up grunge (Altuzarra) and New York club land (Jen Kao) both popped up, with Technicolor tops and plastic-rubber pants (even at Marc Jacobs), and argyle, argyle, argyle at Altuzarra. For those of us old enough to remember the decade, it's an interesting development, though hopefully it won't last as long as the '80s fascination has.

Speaking of Mr. Jacobs, his younger line Marc by Marc was rich in '70s styles and autumnal hues. But his main line was a space-age blast to the past: the future as imagined in the '40s and '50s.

Zero + Maria Cornejo's palette was mainly neutral with one bold red look. Cornejo's dresses and outerwear only get better and better, and though she's a favorite with editors, perhaps this will translate to more commercial success soon.

Minimal lines like Calvin Klein and Narciso Rodriguez did what they do best: They sent out modern pieces utilizing interesting fabrics, textures and colors to keep things fresh.

Nuns were hot this week. No, seriously. Thom Browne kicked off his presentation with models dressed as nuns, set to the tune of "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" Wayne also had nunlike attire. Modesty: It's here, it's hot, it's now.

But back to reality.

Michael Kors celebrated his 30th Anniversary this week with a casually glamorous collection filled with keyhole fronts, plunging necklines, and embellished halter dresses.

One of the biggest shockers was Ralph Lauren's Shanghai show, which surprised many for its lack of Americana and denim. The predominantly black collection focused on evening- and outerwear in sumptuous fabrics.

There may not have been one defining look this Fashion Week, but variety is oftentimes better. The beauty of such diverse collections is that despite personal style and preferences, there really is something for everyone. And with the majority of looks made in rich fabrics (cashmere, silk, alpaca, shearling), it's going to be a luxurious season.