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New York Fashion Week Hits the Runway as Colors Pop

Thursday, 9 Feb 2012 | 7:49 PM ET

In an industry known for extravagance, simpler designs with a ladylike twist will blanket the Lincoln Center runway at Fashion Week for the Fall 2012 season, industry experts predict.

A BCBG model
Photo by Katie Little for CNBC.com
A BCBG model

The recovering economy is one reason that consumers are drawn to classic looks that will be able to transition through multiple seasons. Kate Middleton is another.

“We as consumers — especially with what’s going on in the economy right now — are experiencing a return to classic items that also have a sense of specialty,” said Maren Hartman, trend analyst at WGSN and director of content operations.

But in a sign that the economy and consumer confidencemay be poised for a rebound, designers are splashing the runway with bursts of color.

At BCBG Max Azria, the second show of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, color blocking using hues such as teal, coral and dark green dominated the looks. The collection, which drew inspiration from the Bauhaus art-school style, used bits of fur and elongated proportions that created a geometric feel to the architecture-reminiscent designs.

"When you wear color, you just feel more optimistic," said Lubov Azria, the company's creative director.

BCBG offers consumers the lowest price point of the two brands Azria will be presenting this season. In past years, she and her husband Max, the company's designer, chairman and CEO, have shown a third brand, the Max Azria collection, but scaled back beginning in the Spring 2012 season — in part due to the economy. While consumers are more hesitant than they were before the recession , they are still spending, Azria said.

Increasingly, buyers are looking for items that will fill in their wardrobes' gaps and for pieces that they will be able to wear often — a requirement that the label's designs fulfill.

"This season, especially, we're doing seasonless clothes," Azria said about the lightweight fall collection.

Fashion’s new take on minimalism does not include merely plain wardrobe basics. Hartman said J. Crew, which will present its second collection on Tuesday, embodies the trend toward simplicity. The retailer frequently combines classic silhouettes with more forward color, prints and patterns.

At BCBG, simpler lines carried over into a more natural look for makeup also.

"BCBG always likes the minimal — the simple — so after the show, the woman can walk on the street, and no one's going to say she was in the show," said Charlotte Willer, the lead makeup artist at the show.

Fashion Week makeup artist.
Photo by Katie Little for CNBC.com
Fashion Week makeup artist.

Middleton, the new Duchess of Cambridge, has also inspired designers to return to ladylike designs and to use more lace and tulle, said Roseanne Morrison, fashion director at the Doneger Group. But this feminine influence will be balanced out by an edgier look, she added.

Hartman said she thinks this increased emphasis on femininity will be balanced out by the influence of the traditional masculine silhouette — a trend that has continued during the past few seasons.

“In women’s wear, we are still seeing the midi-length skirts,” she said. “There is still this level of waist definition that we are seeing in women’s wear. It’s juxtaposed by these boxier silhouettes.”

She added that mixed media will be big this season. Designers will showcase items featuring collaging of fabric.

Although many of the designs showcased on the runway this season will never be produced for the mass market, the pieces featured at Lincoln Center will influence upcoming fashion trends.

“If you name a trend right now, it’s found somewhere on the runway,” Hartman said.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Katie Little on Twitter @katie_little_.

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