February 15, 2013 8:46 am

New York womenswear: Gilded beauties

Calvin Klein sticks to minimalism while Ralph Lauren runs riot

The venue might have been new this season, but when it comes to a Ralph Lauren collection – always on the final day of New York Fashion Week – some things never change.

Each show exudes the same distinctively familiar aesthetic; lavish, unashamedly sentimental and anchored to a gilded age or tribe that happens to tickle Mr Lauren’s creative fancy.

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On Thursday, that meant a waltz through late 19th century Russia, with an opening sequence that took a romanticised view of the urban industrial revolutionary; think pageboy caps, with inky cashmere cable-knit turtlenecks or military-style pea coats peppered with buttons and shoulder insignia, all teamed with flares or wool knickerbockers tucked into Cossack boots.

A jarring bohemian detour then followed, offering unflattering velvet tea dresses in winter berry shades, before the narrative returned to sumptuous evening wear: delicate jersey tops belted to skirts with lashings of georgette taffeta; a rather contemporary pleated gown covered in thin vertical strips of leather; and the final show-stopping winter white number with a champagne shearling capelet worn over a beaded tulle dress and train that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Anna Karenina.

By contrast, at Calvin Klein minimalism seemed to be the name of the game – until you looked closer and contemplated the construction of Francisco Costa’s garments. Stiff, pleated skirts were forged into mosaic lattice grids via intricate weaving and the use of tiny gold hinges; coats with a strong military silhouette were given a feminine touch with wide lapels, belted waists and shiny PVC panelling; and sophisticated V-necked dresses in blended wool and cashmere combos seemed one-dimensional from the front, but were sculpted into sweeping, criss-crossed shells of fabric at the back.

It was a polished collection for the urban power dresser, although it hardly broke new ground. That’s not necessarily bad. Amid the noise and spectacle of a fast-moving, transient city, the familiarity of style can create a comfort zone, just choose your neighbourhood.

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