NEW YORK — At times, it seems like Donna Karan has a split personality. Her collections tend to alternate between a more ladylike look and a freer, more savage side.
I like the savage Donna better.
So it was great to see the designer come out and take a bow at the end of her runway show swathed in a brown suede, off-the-shoulder cape, black jeans, knee-high boots and large black pouch around her waist like the winner of Survivor: Africa after showing a collection that clearly played to her strengths.
Many of Karan's designs are cut to show more than a hint of thigh and have cape-like pieces that flow from the body — some to the floor in dramatic evening wear.
A central theme in many collections at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has been a "take no prisoners" attitude with military jackets, furs in camouflage colors and evening gowns embellished with leather harnesses. Karan's fall collection has a no-nonsense attitude in keeping with the tougher-edged motif, yet it maintains a more sensual side.
For this collection, she returned to her "seven easy pieces," a concept she first developed in the '80s, built around a monochromatic bodysuit layered under jackets, skirts, pants or wraps. The pieces can be mixed and matched to create a full wardrobe.
Karan's unique draping style is evident in fluid stretch jersey dresses in shades of gray, black and brown. Many are cut to show more than a hint of thigh and have cape-like pieces that flow from the body — some to the floor in dramatic evening wear.
A bit of an '80s vibe shows through in jackets with padded shoulders and loose satin pants. But the collection is anything but a salute the past. Karen modernizes her look with such features as sheer insets at the waist and slashed leather bodices that look like breastplates. Jackets of neoprene give shape to the body.
For evening, she plays a little looser, with a sari-like gown of silvery sequins painted onto brown stretch jersey fabric mixed in amid the more sculpted, body-hugging evening wear.
It's a look that the audience, which included actresses Uma Thurman and Gretchen Mol, along with Donna Karan Ambassador Sheridan Williams and Karen Mayell, both up from Houston, clearly relished.