HTX Clifford on the Catwalk 2013
The next generation

Snow what? Alexander Wang, Jason Wu and Prabal Gurung seize their fashion week moment

Snow what? Alexander Wang, Jason Wu and Prabal Gurung seize their fashion week moment

Alexander Wang, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 2013
Alexander Wang's distinctive show featured cocoon-like silver coats. Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images
Jason Wu, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 2013
Model Chanel Iman in Jason Wu black/red one shoulder pleated satin faced twill dress Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
Prabal Gurung, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 2013
Model Daria Werbowy closed the Prabal Gurung show in navy silk crepe satin gown with cutaway back and black woven leather harness Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images
Alexander Wang, NARS, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 2013
Backstage at the Alexander Wang show, models showcase two of the looks in the show. "Alex had this idea of creating a shadow with makeup on the eye, and so we decided to make the eyes look almost hooded. It's a matte look, with a gradation of grey color brushed up into brows," said NARS Cosmetics lead artist Diane Kendal. Courtesy of NARS
Alexander Wang, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 2013
Jason Wu, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 2013
Prabal Gurung, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 2013
Alexander Wang, NARS, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 2013

NEW YORK — Over the past decade, many of the thrills of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week have come from seeing America's top designers excel at their craft. I still get goose bumps when Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Michael Kors send upwards of 60 models down the catwalk in a carefully choreographed presentation of what every woman dreams of wearing next season.

 Even a New York blizzard couldn't keep the fashion faithful away from these shows. 

But lately, they have been joined by a new generation of young, more diverse designers who are carving out unique identities with polished collections that are appealing to a younger clientele. Even a New York blizzard couldn't keep the fashion faithful away from their shows.

Jason Wu: What would Michelle think?

Age: 30

Claim to Fame: Wu received international acclaim when he designed Michelle Obama's inaugural gown in 2009. In a real surprise, the first lady chose him again for January's inaugural, where his halter-neck ruby chiffon custom gown with velvet details garnered stellar reviews — along with some grousing among fashion critics that Obama should have highlighted a different designer the second time around.

Interest level: Sky-high. Blizzard conditions threatened New York Friday afternoon, but driving snow didn't deter intrepid fashion reporters and a smattering of celebrities (Girls' Allison Williams, Jamie King) from filling a former church on Park Avenue where de la Renta used to show his collections.

 Wu's collection, which he dubbed "Extreme Femininity," included a range of styles, from satin-and-fur motorcycle jackets belted tight at the waist to frothy ostrich feather party dresses. 

The show: A Phantom of the Opera-sized chandelier dominated the room, although it remained low near the shiny black-and-white tile floors as models walked in a large square around it. Moments before the show began a team of workers wiped up melted snow tracked in as the crowd found their seats.

The look: Wu's sophisticated collection, which he dubbed "Extreme Femininity," included a range of styles, from satin-and-fur motorcycle jackets belted tight at the waist to frothy ostrich feather party dresses. There is a grown-up-in-a-good-way feeling to the collection, which also includes pleated dresses with beaded trim and a belted peplum top with flowing train and stovepipe pants.

But the see-through striped turtlenecks are likely a little too extreme for the first lady and her followers.

 

Prabal Gurung: Warrior woman chic

Age: 38 (but looks a lot younger)

Claim to fame: The Prabal Gurung for Target collection launches this weekend. Also, Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge have worn his designs.

Interest level: A full house of the fashion faithful trekked to a chilly warehouse near the East River for Gurung's show on Saturday. On the front row: Eve and former first daughter Barbara Bush.

 Even the draped evening gowns had a tough edge, with black leather harness details, and some offered cutouts that exposed a slice of the lower torso. 

The show: A no-nonsense industrial setting with futuristic tones. The closer was a stunner as each of the 36 models stood in an individual spotlight that cast a square onto the concrete floor.

The collection: Nothing frilly about Gurung's fall line-up. It features peplum jackets in military colors of olive or navy, cool-looking buckled gladiator boots that extend to mid-thigh and blouses with hand-embroidered epaulets.

Even the draped evening gowns have a tough edge, with black leather harness details. Some have cutouts that expose a slice of the lower torso — an exposed rib may be the "new back."

Gurung told reporters backstage that he based the collection on a Time magazine article that named body armor for women in the military as one of the best new inventions of 2012.

 

Alexander Wang: 50 shades of grey 

Age: 29

Claim to fame: In December, Wang was named creative director at Balenciaga, the influential French family house.

Interest level: A darling of influential fashion editors for his urban sensibilities, Wang always draws a large and enthusiastic crowd. Lending street cred to the proceedings were rapper A$AP Rocky, actress-singer Zoe Kravitz and 7-ft.-1-in.-tall New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (I wouldn't want to sit behind him at a show).

 Opening with the cheesy strains of "Eye of the Tiger," Wang sent out models swathed in cocoon-like gray jackets with sleeves of black fur that covered the model's hands like a paw.  

The show: Wang moved from a dank warehouse on the East River to the ornate lobby of the Cunard Building in lower Manhattan, a Beaux Art-style treaure built in 1917 with grand vestibules and a great central dome containing four roundels of mythological marble figures. 

The collection: Opening with the cheesy strains of "Eye of the Tiger," Wang sent out models swathed in cocoon-like gray jackets with sleeves of black fur that covered their hands like a paw. The collection includes lots of outerwear in a mix of leather, wool and fur, sometimes with a crisscrossed belt at the front, and subdued shades of grey, black, creme and more grey.

Soft sweaters with rubberized sleeves, sparkly high-neck, low-back sweaters and black pants with a built in tool belt/apron lived up to Wang's urban innovator reputation. But the last look — white satin slacks, a plunging V-neck top and grey fur shrug — had a '70s glamour edge that's perfect for a night out on the town.