New York -- During New York Fashion Week, Tracy Reese gave voice to her models — literally. The young designers at Oscar de la Renta seemed to be taking the luxury label in a more casual direction with denim and other relaxed garments. And Carolina Herrera, who showed previously at the Frick Collection, found another stunning venue for her runway show: the Museum of Modern Art.

A unique approach

Entering the Tracy Reese presentation on Sunday afternoon, you immediately noticed something unusual about the models standing on the stage: They were speaking.

“They’re saying something about themselves, why they’re doing this, what their hopes and dreams are, the women they admire in their lives,” Reese explained. “Often when you come to these, people don’t look at the women, they’re looking at the clothes, and that why we’re doing this. I wanted people to see the woman in the clothing and hear something about who she is.”

The remarks were unscripted and very personal. One model was speaking in Spanish, saying that her mother was the person she admired most in the world. Another, in English, was saying: “A woman is strong, a woman is love, a woman is beauty.” Still another was saying, “I am strength, I am grace, I am a woman.”

Attending the show was Whoopi Goldberg, who noted that Reese, who’s known for being one of Michelle Obama’s favorite designers, is “especially good at recognizing that women’s bodies are different. And they’re big and small and wide and thin and that’s who she creates for. So there is something for every person on the planet in Tracy’s collections, and I love that.”

Reese has long offered up a runway that is diverse not only ethnically but in terms of size and shape. She also often combines professional and non-professional models in her shows — a rarity.

Diversity on the runway is something other designers have slowly caught up to, Goldberg noted.

“It’s what you kind of have to do now,” the actress and TV host said. “If you want to sell the clothes. She’s always known and she now can design for everybody — as you see here, there are black women, white women, Hispanic women, Asian women … this is the world stage. So I am so proud.”

Often, designers are asked who their “muse” was when designing a specific collection. The Cass Tech grad said her muse was simply “every woman who wants to look and feel beautiful in clothing. I thought, ‘Let’s highlight the women that are wearing the clothes.’ ”

“I love that they’re getting to share who they are,” she said.

Jocelyn Noveck

Oscar De La Renta’s new signature collection

There was a whiff of change at Oscar de la Renta, where new designers Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim presented a whimsical collection featuring casual garments like midriff-baring denim jackets and roomy windbreakers.

It also was what you would call a signature collection — literally. Many of the garments bore the signature, in various forms, of the label’s late, legendary founder, de la Renta — either in script, or even in large, sparkly letters spelling out his name.

“We’re celebrating him unabashedly,” Garcia said backstage.

The designers noted that the only time until now that de la Renta’s signature appeared on his clothes was on a gown that Sarah Jessica Parker wore to the Met Gala in 2014. It had been the actress’ idea to embroider his signature on the back.

Garcia added that he and Kim had updated the image of de la Renta’s signature after looking around and finding that “the signatures he actually left behind were much more legible, and true to his handwriting.”

The designers, presenting only their second Fashion Week collection for the label after taking over following the sudden departure of Peter Copping, began their runway show with a series of looks with a paint splatter motif. The theme even extended to the stiletto shoes: the heels looked like the stems of paint brushes.

New techniques used by the label this year included laser-cut leather, Garcia said, along with the denim, part of an effort to expand the clientele and the appeal of the brand.

But there was something for the traditionalists, too: Toward the end of the show came the red carpet-ready gowns that define the brand’s image, like strapless gowns in tulle with full skirts and even a ruby-dyed mink coat.

Guests at Monday’s show, held at Sotheby’s auction house, included Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild and Nicki Minaj. They were all getting a double dose of Garcia and Kim, having attended their show on Friday for the duo’s fledgling label, Monse.

Jocelyn Noveck

Art in movement

Carolina Herrera believes that fashion is “art in movement,” and so naturally one of her favorite places to show her clothes is in a museum. In the past, she’s taken her show to the stunning courtyard at the Frick Collection, and for this Fashion Week, she secured the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art.

“I’ve been trying to do it for many years, and at last I could and I am so honored to be here,” the designer said before Monday evening’s show.

The outdoor courtyard with its bubbling fountains served as the backdrop for Herrera’s chic garden party and ’80s-inspired collection.

“Being in the garden at the MoMA is one of those moments where, ‘Is this really happening? Is this real life?’ It’s so beautiful!” said Disney actress Peyton List, who sat in the front row alongside model Lily Aldridge, actress Michelle Monaghan and former “Teen Wolf” star Crystal Reed.

“I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen this garden at night, so I’m quite mesmerized by it,” Monaghan said.

There was gingham, and lots of puffed sleeves, big shoulders, colorful polka-dots and waists cinched with oversized bows. Sequins reigned supreme.

“This collection is all about color,” Herrera said. “Color is very powerful and makes you think in a different way. Color makes you see things in different eyes.”

Herrera’s signature white blouse also made a runway appearance, this time with a deep V-neck, dramatic sleeves and a gingham wrap skirt.

But the designer eschewed her usual crisp white button-down in favor of a black ensemble.

Nicole Evatt


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