New York's Fashion Week concludes after more than 300 shows

Story highlights

  • Fashionista editor: Event gets bigger each year with more participants, more street art
  • Blanket coats, furs, structural outerwear figured prominently, in a nod to the season
  • Layers of textured skirts, sweaters, pants, belts create warm look for fall 2012
  • New York socialite Zelda Kaplan, 95, dies after collapsing at Joanna Mastroianni show

Dark colors, bold patterns and shimmering fabrics emerged as prominent themes from New York's Fall 2012 Fashion Week, which concluded Thursday after a packed schedule of more than 300 shows.

While runway fashion tends to be over the top for most of us mere mortals, it sets the tone for what to expect in stores this fall. With around 320 shows and presentations this season -- a 60% increase from five years ago, according to industry digest Business of Fashion -- that's a big pool of inspiration to draw upon.

"New York Fashion Week just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and the calendar more packed," said Leah Chernikoff, executive editor of style blog Fashionista, which had wall-to-wall coverage of Fashion Week. "There's something nice about New York Fashion Week being so democratic -- anyone with some serious hustle (and cash) can show."

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Fashion Week also marks some of the biggest stateside gatherings of industry heavyweights, acolytes and the people who love to document them. Those milling about the periphery of shows tend to generate headlines and images equally as captivating as the runway.

"Street style and the folks who document it has become such a phenomenon," Chernikoff said. "The shows are just as big outside the venues as inside on the runway. Swarms of photographers stake out Lincoln Center, Milk Studios and the galleries in Chelsea to get a shot of the peacocking well-heeled editors, stylists, bloggers and buyers who attend the shows."

On the runways, blanket coats, furs and structural outerwear figured prominently, in a nod to the season. They ran the gamut: luxurious and classic alpaca coats from Jill Stuart, big and cuddly jackets, courtesy of Michael Kors, fur-lined and embellished trenches and pea coats from Altuzarra.

    Pantsuits were among the highlights of reality show darling Rachel Zoe's first runway show for her third collection. Another celebrity outside the fashion world, Victoria Beckham, was praised for her skin-tight yet seemingly practical collection of knit and jersey dresses.

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    Designer of the moment Jason Wu wowed critics with an Asian-inspired collection that included lace evening dresses, Mao-esque military jackets and shirts, and a standout epaulet dress with a shaved black mink embroidered into the front. Wu was one several favorites of first lady Michelle Obama showing collections at Fashion Week, along with Prabal Gurung, Thakoon Panichgul and Chris Benz.

    And then there were dresses, hundreds of them, in seemingly every pattern and texture imaginable, notable among them Proenza Scouler based on sheer variety alone. As for women's separates, a vast lineup of layers of skirts, sweaters, vests, skinny jeans and belts (Rag and Bone, we're looking at you) should ensure a warm winter for the wearer.

    "In the same way that in tough economic times we've seen a trend towards comfort food, I think there's something to be said in fashion to wanting to be cozy and warm and comfortable (but stylish too!)" Chernikoff said in an e-mail.

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    Fashion Week would be incomplete without glamorous evening wear, and this year was no exception. Shimmering fabrics and sheer silhouettes graced many a catwalk, with standout pieces from Marchesa, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren that are likely contenders for the celebrity red carpet, Chernikoff said.

    Another fixture of Fashion Week: The celebrity front row hosted a large sampling of pop culture's biggest names, including but not limited to Rooney Mara, Viola Davis, Debra Messing, Jessica Alba, Arianna Huffington, Kristin Chenoweth, Claire Danes, Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen, Idris Elba, even athletes like tennis player Maria Sharapova and New York Giant Victor Cruz, who also cut the ribbon on Fashion Week.

    Speaking of local celebrities, somber news befell the final days of Fashion Week with the passing of New York socialite and beloved party animal Zelda Kaplan on Wednesday. The 95-year-old truly died as she lived, spending her last waking moments in the front row of the Joanna Mastroianni fashion show at Lincoln Center, where she collapsed before being rushed to a hospital. Regarded as a symbol of aging with panache, she was a fixture of the New York arts scene and the subject of a 2003 documentary film, "Her Name is Zelda."

    "I'm a curious person," Kaplan once said, according to The New York Times. "I want to keep learning until it's over. And when it's over, it's over."