(InStyle.com) -- New York Fashion Week began on a somber note as the first day of shows was marred by news of the tragic death of beloved British designer Alexander McQueen.
But despite the shock and sadness, the shows went on and the industry was greeted with beautifully crafted clothing, and a calmer atmosphere than years past.
This season, designers showed their business savvy as much as their creativity. They proved themselves to be extremely focused on pieces that are meant to be bought and worn, not just gawked at on a runway.
For fall, the consumer is king -- and that led to some beautiful and appealing results. Noted InStyle Fashion Director Hal Rubenstein, "It's like the whole industry said, 'We have clothes to make and customers to excite.'"
Rubenstein said the season showcased true and intricate craftsmanship. "Nobody did a basic collection. Everything was special, but it wasn't about opulence, it was more about value."
To that end, he loved standout shows like Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, both of whom played to a basic palette -- Jacobs with neutrals and Karan with black. "Marc was astonishing. People floated out of that serene show," said Rubenstein. As for Donna Karan's ode to black: "She did black in ways no one ever has before by playing with the shapes and forms and fabrications."
On the flip side of the neutral, print-free collections (which also included Vera Wang and Michael Kors) were lots of graphic patterns at Proenza Schouler and layers of color, velvet and brocade at Diane von Furstenberg and Carolina Herrera.
Intricate patch-working and mixing fabrications emerged as a trend most significantly at Jason Wu, Proenza Schouler, and Rodarte. "Designers experimented in making strong and identifiable pieces as if to say, 'I'm going to make you want to shop by showing you something you don't already own,'" reasoned Rubenstein.
Another key trend, and one that again focuses on pragmatism: stunning coats. "Women actually buy coats. It's a major purchase where people are willing to spend a little more," said Rubenstein.
Among the designer elite were three bold-face names -- Victoria Beckham, Ashley Olsen, and Mary-Kate Olsen -- with very clear purposes at New York Fashion Week: showing off their designs. "These days it seems every celebrity and her sister have a fashion line," lamented Rubenstein. "But these ladies are very savvy about their businesses and it shows."
He loved the well-constructed, elegant and flattering dresses by Victoria Beckham and Mary -Kate and Ashley Olsen's designs for cult favorite The Row. "They are the kind of pieces that you buy and hold onto for decades. "
While this season was more low-key than others on the celebrity front, Victoria and the Olsens weren't the only stars present. Others in attendance included Sarah Jessica Parker, now president and chief creative officer at Halston, and Donna Karan's old friends Demi Moore, Brooke Shields and Susan Sarandon.
And Jessica Biel played it cool at Oscar de la Renta, simply ooh-ing and ah-ing as she saw the collection, clearly there to enjoy the clothes, not the photo op.
Wrapping up on Thursday, New York Fashion Week came to a close in much the same way it began, with news about Alexander McQueen. The Gucci Group announced that they will continue to produce McQueen's line and that the designer's final collection will be shown in Paris in March, giving the industry that loved him a chance to honor his creations one more time.
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