February 13, 2014 4:53 pm

New York Fashion Week: Runway report 9

In recent seasons, the contemporary aesthetic – particularly in New York – has leaned emphatically towards ambisexuality.

Boxy, oversized coats. Boyish, tailored suiting. A penchant for playful, pared-down sports luxe attire and its blurring of gender lines, both in its concept and its construction.

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So on the penultimate day of NYFW, the appearance on the schedule of two women designers who place the allure of the female form at the heart of their brand philosophies was both welcome and refreshing.

Nanette Lepore, the longtime Fashion Avenue stalwart and advocate, recently dressed the city’s incumbent First Lady Chirlane McCray for her husband Bill de Blasio’s mayoral inauguration. Her latest bohemian collection showed off her innate understanding of the most captivating parts of a woman’s body, with a crafts-infused procession of pleated full skirts, deep-pocketed shearling jackets and multicoloured, gauzy knits.

Simple pieces like the opening bordeaux-hued V-neck day dress, nipped waists and skimmed clavicles, becoming richer and more textured with warming blush and berry coloured layers of weavings, embellishments and embroideries. Added texture and shape also came with fluid, layered sleeves and hemlines that fell longer than in seasons past.

This was low-impact, soft-focus dressing – the same of which could not be said for Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti, which felt more like an exploration of a woman on the edge.

Creative director Natalie Ratabesi focused on a skimming, elongated silhouette in predominantly dark and gothic shades. Think an ashen, clingy diaphanous sweater, shrouded in fur with a diagonally cut leather midi; or leather pants with a flesh-exposing sheer tunic, split at the waist and with a garland of featherlike, jet black slivers.

Some of these looks worked; some also felt a little forced and brittle. More forgiving were pieces in softer, flesh-coloured shades like a maxi coat with wide lapels, open to reveal an asymmetric top and loose-fit tapered pants.

While both shows had disparate aesthetic DNAs, the shared ethos of Ratabesi and Lepore remained clear: celebration and accentuation of womanly characteristics, in a modern and quietly empowering way.

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