Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta waves as the final model in his show claps and walks the runway at the conclusion of the presentation of the Oscar de la Renta Spring 2013 collection at Fashion Week in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
NEW YORK (AP) — Katie Holmes, greeting well-wishers in a black leather blazer and gold beaded heels, became the latest celebrity to take a serious stab at fashion with her Holmes & Yang preview at New York Fashion Week on Wednesday.
The celebrities who once lined the front rows of these seasonal previews in party dresses have increasingly made their way backstage into positions of power.
Celebrity names are commonplace on mass-market brands: The Kardashian sisters, Venus Williams, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Avril Lavigne, Daisy Fuentes, Heidi Klum and reality stars Whitney Port and Lauren Conrad each have department-store brands.
But a handful have also become serious fashion forces. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are among the most imitated — or sincerely flattered — U.S. designers for their brand The Row, and this year were named top womenswear designers by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Victoria Beckham's previews are among the week's most hotly anticipated, and paparazzi-free.
Gwen Stefani, Nicole Richie and celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe have also pulled away from the pack.
"The lines that are successful are very authentic," said Susan Kaufman, editor in chief of People StyleWatch. "The key is the celebrity being involved, being involved in the look and the concept, and to be proud to wear the clothes."
On that measure, Holmes seems ready to join the elite club. Showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week seems a major commitment to the brand and Holmes' future in fashion. "It was very clean but with a cool factor," Kaufman said. "I can easily see her (Holmes) wearing it."
HOLMES & YANG
Holmes might have just tipped off the paparazzi on how to find her: They should look for a woman a camel-colored suede capelet with red shorts, or, if it's later in the day, maybe a strapless jumpsuit with beaded fringe running down the side.
Holmes and her design partner and longtime stylist, Jeanne Yang, attended the preview wearing black leather blazers and black stretch pants.
There wasn't a runway, just 14 models on pedestals. One wore a black leather lingerie-style camisole with an olive silk button-front maxi skirt, and another had on a black lace slouchy blazer with black lace short — an outfit right on trend with what tastemakers have been seeing this round of previews.
Many of the outfits hit on the menswear silhouettes and luxury fabrics Holmes favors.
OSCAR DE LA RENTA
Latex and leather: That's what keeps Oscar de la Renta modern while maintaining his position as the godfather of uptown style.
On his runway Tuesday evening, de la Renta equally paid homage to the decorative and frothy styles that have been his hallmark for more than four decades as well as the new technologies that keep fashion ahead of the pop culture curve.
One of the most remarkable looks was a two-piece dress made of ivory silk faille and with a feminine peplum around the hips that also featured a top layer of a latex flower appliques that could have been the icing on the most delicious cake.
Leather has been a staple of this round of previews for editors, stylists and retailers, but de la Renta took the risk with latex, which actually seemed even lighter and more supple than the buttery leathers the crowd has seen.
De la Renta's outfits certainly courted the crowd of socialites, celebrities and power brokers that typically favor his label. Not many others can justify a super special-occasion, shocking-pink embroidered gown that boasted turquoise tassel embroidery, resin flowers, pave crystals and jeweled neckline.
Betsey Johnson threw herself a big, crazy 70th birthday party with pal Cyndi Lauper belting "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and confetti-slinging models prancing decade-by-decade down a runway in her wild clothes, including one clutching a not-happy-looking baby pig.
Johnson's grown daughter Lulu popped out of a huge faux birthday cake on stage and watched with her two young kids as grandma performed her signature cartwheel and splits.
If anybody deserves a night out, it's the flamboyant Johnson, a breast cancer survivor who lost control of her signature boutiques earlier this year. All 63 of them in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. held going-out-of-business sales after Betsey Johnson LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April.
The brand will continue on a wholesale basis and online, with moderately priced clothing sold in department stores, along with accessories and other licenses.
So why not celebrate? Huge video displays offered glimpses of her rock roots in the swinging '60s, as models held up glitter-lettered signs marking the decades, culminating in new clothes for spring with a princess theme, twirling and shimmying before a bra-clad parade in skimpy sparkle bottoms spelled out "cheers" in letters on their backsides.
Johnson's actual birthday is Aug. 10, 1942, but who's counting.
From the triangular cleavage cutouts to the plunging V-necklines, designer Narciso Rodriguez made his point with pointed shapes.
"It's a very graphic collection. It's kind of a signature at this point after so many years: the splicing, the color, especially black and white," said Rodriguez before his show, which was held Tuesday off-site from the Lincoln Center tents.
But while the designer known for modern and architectural silhouettes showed a handful of black and white looks, color dominated the minimalist collection with blood-orange sheath dresses, a loose-fitting fuchsia blazer and silky tops with intricate, emerald embroidery.
The easy-breezy collection ended with a stream of silky soft, paper thin, slip dresses colorblocked with geometric shades of pink.
Before the show Rodriguez explained how the mood backstage matched the vibe coming down the runway: "Some seasons are more stressful than others. This one is a very happy, mellow, nice feeling."
British restraint? Not here.
The Jenny Packham catwalk was a parade of one glitzy, glamorous look after another, and she wasn't one to shy away from a single — or thousands of — beads, sequins and sparkles.
Packham wouldn't be doing justice to 1960s Las Vegas without them, right?
London-based Packham said in her notes that she took a long look at Lauren Bacall, Shirley MacLaine and Angie Dickinson, aka "The Rat Pack Mascots," as inspiration. If these muses were to swing open the closet doors in spring 2013, they would find Packham's checkerboard-beaded gown, a swinging trapeze-beaded mini and the ultimate hostess dress, an orange T-shirt gown with embellished long-sleeve cuffs.
There was a bit of repetitiveness in the collection, but that's the life that this woman lives: party after party.
AP Writers Leanne Italie and Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.
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