The New York Fashion Industry Report:
The Ten Best Looks of the Spring 2006 Season

- by Bernadine Morris, senior editor Bernadine was for thirty years the senior fashion writer of The New York Times.

Ralph Rucci Spring 2006 Collection
#1 Ralph Rucci Spring 2006 Collection

"Easy" could be the operative word for fashion shows in the tents this season. What makes it most evident is the fact that the producers aren't just Americans. Increasingly the tents provide a world-wide scope. Lebanese, Malaysian, Chinese...these are just some of the ethnic sources for the runway clothes.

Lots of style details, like length, are irrelevant though minis are prominent. Calf length shows up occasionally. And there's no lack of short shorts and Bermudas. They are all part of the comfort movement.

There is no single style destined to sweep the world. Designers hover over past successes with a certain amount of romanticism. Flower prints are part of this, so are rich pretty colors. The range is also vast, from the couture-like quality of Chado Ralph Rucci at the high end, to the all-American sportswear look of Michael Kors.

Oscar de la Renta Spring 2006 Collection
#2 Oscar de la Renta Spring 2006 Collection

In between there is the quality look of Oscar de la Renta, still a favorite of women who care for clothes and are willing to pay for them. Zang Toi, with his oriental exoticism, and Carolina Herrera, whose clothes are in the couture tradition, but have been updated to appeal to a younger crowd, are other outstanding collections.

Michael Kors Spring 2006 Collection
#3 Michael Kors Spring 2006 Collection

Among the most outstanding is Michael Kors, known from the time he went into business as a designer of casual clothes. Though he defected for awhile to Louis Vuitton in Paris (when the American look was in big demand), he has never given up his hold on relaxed easy-to-wear clothes. If there is a way women everywhere prefer to dress, this is it; not complicated, easy to put on, and cool.

He included clothes that covered many disparate functions, from bikinis to evening dresses. They never look trendy. He calls his collection "romantic minimalism" and he includes references to Georgia O'Keefe and Rock Hudson but it's not necessary to take this too seriously. Camouflage prints are part of the mix, but so are sand-colored trench coats, black silk shirts, white eyelet shirt dresses and plenty of other classics. Also included are metallic slashed fabrics, gentle embroideries and of course twin sets. What could be more classic?

Calvin Klein Spring 2006 Collection
#4 Calvin Klein Spring 2006 Collection

An interesting sidelight on the season is the number of well-known fashion houses that have been successfully taken over by new designers. Perhap's the most highly touted collection is the one from Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein. Despite an appalling lack of air-conditioning, which caused Anna Wintour of Vogue and Patrick McCarthy of Women's Wear Daily to depart before the show began, the designer managed to rise above it with a beautiful collection.

His clothes were not line-for-line "Calvin's". But in their own right they were light, frothy and floaty. Many were in white voile or chiffon. A number had pleated skirts or empire waists and small jackets. Full skirts and low necklines were also part of the agenda. It was all airy and effortless and the audience was enthusiastic. The air-conditioning could be fixed.

Geoffrey Beene Spring 2006 Collection
#5 Geoffrey Beene Spring 2006 Collection

Geoffrey Beene was also successful in his designer, Norwegian born, named Einar Holilokk. He managed to capture the off-beat way Mr. Beene expressed in his work. His special way of cutting jackets and forming seams, It give a distinguished look to fashion's upper echelon clothes .

Michael Vollbracht is trying to give Bill Blass a new look. Mr. Vollbracht worked for Blass years ago putting together one of the early less expensive collections, so he has an idea of how Blass expected clothes to look. This is another house where women who cared about clothes -- not just tailored suits and soft evening dresses -- made themselves at home.

Mr. Vollbracht did well by gingham checks, plus coat and dress combinations. It's possible that the big B's of fashion will be swimming again in the mainstream.

Ralph Lauren Spring 2006 Collection
#6 Ralph Lauren Spring 2006 Collection

Ralph Lauren has never left the mainstream. Some seasons he's livelier than others, but he always maintains high standards. While he doesn't aim to be cutting-edge fashion he does try for a permanent elegance. This season he gives spring a happy-go-lucky look. He uses a simple design technique, blue and white stripes in myriad ways. It works in swimsuits, shirt dresses and in combination with solid navy pants. The clothes looked familiar, yet fresh. It wasn't the only theme. There were also patchwork jackets, embroidered linen and denim. An occasional ruffled blouse or skirt carried out the light hearted theme.

Donna Karan Spring 2006 Collection
#7 Donna Karan Spring 2006 Collection

Donna Karan is, of course, among the best known American designers. This time she step's out on a new venture: fullness. Karan's clothes are usually slender, fitted and what is generally called feminine. They're still feminine, but now they tend to be made with fullness. Besides the great sense of freedom, they look relaxed on the body and are quite different from the usual Karan fare. In fact, they could be heralding a new era of gentler fit. Wide dresses with spatter prints were also expressive of the looser look

When it comes to the farther shores of chic, no one is more at home than Ralph Rucci. His couture and ready-to-wear clothes are of astonishing subtlety. If there are women out there who miss that sort of thing, Rucci provides his own versions.

Marc Jacobs Spring 2006 Collection
#8 Marc Jacobs Spring 2006 Collection

He showed the couture collection as well as the ready-to-wear styles. In both, seams are so subtle as to be almost invisible. Accents like leather and fur are prominent. Each dress is an individual and trends per se do not exist. There is an occasional flash of color as in a jade green raincoat or a red wool dress. The effect is never jazzy.

Oscar is so popular he has a section of his show devoted to women who wear his clothes. He's the only one of the Seventh Avenue designers who can do this. His fans bring their daughters and granddaughters. His highlights this season include rather slim skirts embellished with ruffles and blouses with soft bows or pleated sleeves. It's all put together with quiet authority.

Narciso Rodriquez Spring 2006 Collection
#9 Narciso Rodriquez Spring 2006 Collection

For a slightly exotic slant on contemporary fashion, there are the ethnic designers. Take Yeohlee, for instance. This season, Yeohlee is fascinated by suspension bridges. It's not your usual source for fashion inspiration. She makes clothes that descend from supports around the neck . It brings technology to design in a different way. An amusing part of the show was Fern Mellis, no size l2 or even 14 modelling in the show. She wore a black jacket and black skirt and looked fine.

Zang Toi, who is also Malaysian, has quite a different slant on fashion. He cites Africa as his theme and includes safari jackets along with beaded damask caftans. His clothes are quite distinctive.

Vera Wang Spring 2006 Collection
#10 Vera Wang Spring 2006 Collection

Vera Wang, who is Chinese, also has a distinctive touch. Her evening dresses have their share of glamour with the overlays of golden lace, crushed fabrics and pretty slinky shapes.

Atil Kutoglu is Turkish but works out of Vienna, He has easy control over his tailored clothes as well as exotic ones. Reem Acra, who is Lebanese, focuses on evening dresses and doesn't hold back on sophistication.

Since these were spring collections, swimsuits got lots of attention. Gottex, the Israeli company, does wonders with bikinis, making a spider web in back of one style and making amazing flowers at key points of another.

Sheer skirts and jackets serve as coverups.

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