NEW YORK — Cool elegance. That's the theme for spring 2014 from a number of top designers at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Carolina Herrera, Ralph Rucci and J. Mendel's Giles Mendel exemplify the trend with day dresses and evening gowns that are ethereal yet distinctive, with a mix of understated colors and unusual fabrics that are not always what they seem.
Carolina Herrera ivory crepe gown with tea green embellishment bustier and smoky umber neck detail.
Carolina Herrera's collection was inspired by the kinetic art movement and the 3-dimensional paintings of Venezuelan artists Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesús Rafael Soto. Her artwork-based geo-prints often produced an optical illusion as the model moved down the runway.
Shown here: Carolina Herrera sienna clay and ivory dynamic print chiffon gown plays with the eye's perception.
Because of the play of fabric and illusion, Herrera showed more gowns that she usually does in her collections and featured colors that are more associated with fall than spring.
Shown here: Carolina Herrera smoky umber and ivory dynamic print chiffon gown.
Herrera layered geometric motfs on a range of fabrics, from organza to chiffon and voile, with touches of jeweled embellishment and appliques. Patterns of black-and-white and prints in plum, burnt orange and smoky umber contrast with soft tones of green, white and pink to accentuate the play on perception.
Shown here: Carolina Herrera smoky umber and shell pink kinetic square print viscose gown with silk organza overlay and smoky umber mesh belt present another optical illusion.
Carolina Herrera acknowledges applause from the audience, which included Christina Hendricks, Dita von Teese, Christina Ricci, designer Prabal Gurung, and Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery, who has the most luminous skin I've ever seen.
For the J. Mendel collection, it's all about lace. Designer Giles Mendel transformed the often frilly look into a more uptown geometric motif with silk gazaar and organza to create patchwork evening gowns and daywear.
Shown here: J. Mendel coral paneled long sleeve dress in graphic and floral lace.
Shown here: J. Mendel blush gown in pierced lace, silk gazaar and cloque organza with graphic hem.
Mendel closed his show with this black embroidered high-neck gown with criss-cross straps in the back. It is my favorite fashion week gown, the perfect blend of coverage and exposure — and a prime example that things are not always what they seem.
Giles Mendel acknowledges the fashion week crowd.
With fresh financial backing, new headquarters, a revamped website and his first major ad campaign, Ralph Rucci is on the move. Formerly known as Chado Ralph Rucci, the collection now bears only his name but it retains the designer's attention to couture quality and detail.
Rucci presented a whopping 64 looks, but the models moved fast — in many cases too quickly to take in the elegance of Rucci's designs. Yet, the intricacy of his work can be noticed even as it whooshes by.
Shown here: Ralph Rucci nude knitted sheath and cardigan
Rucci featured a wide array of styles, from elegant separates — the first look is black tuxedo pants with a tiered sleeveless pink blouse — to full-on evening gowns.
Shown here: Ralph Rucci black paper rose jacket and slacks.
A Ralph Rucci collection usually brings the crowd to its feet. The designer acknowledges his fans at the end of the show.