By Eric Wilson
Feb 20, 2015 @ 11:53 am
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InStyle’s fashion news director Eric Wilson offers more real-time Fashion Week insights on Twitter and Instagram. See all of his show reviews here.

“The First Lady is five minutes away,” said an official-looking security guy outside the Ralph Lauren show on Thursday morning, the final day of New York Fashion Week, loud enough for guests to hear. He had a headpiece, too.

That sent a shock of electricity down the runway.

Whisper, whisper, whisper.

Then, exactly five minutes later, Kanye West walked in from the back entrance. Surely, that’s not his Secret Service code name? “First Lady?”

Actually, it was Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York City, who was the surprise guest, and she was delightful addition to the front row. So was Ralph Lauren’s collection, which brought together elements from out west, including luxury après ski wear and spotted handbags made of cowhide, with typical Lauren savoir faire.

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There was a strong sense of continuation from the designer’s pre-fall collection, which focused on the perfect camel coat, into fall, where the palette turned to colors like bronze, taupe, and “heathered truffle” seen on cashmere turtlenecks, a shearling capelet, and a coat made of yards of yarn-thick fringe (pictured, above). Although this has been a fur-heavy season, Lauren maintained his commitment to use only shearling, and the results were some of the freshest looking coats yet this season. For evening, he stuck with a few spare black dresses in silk cady or velvet, and let the accessories do the major lifting in this collection.

Particularly cool were the western bags and platform booties with tortoise-patterned sidewalls (pictured, below). There are always a few fabrics and motifs that mysterious appear from show to show, and from spring’s gingham moment, we are moving on to brown tweeds and tortoise.

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As it happened, the shoes at Calvin Klein were also tortoise patterned, an unexpected paring to designer Francisco Costa’s collection. Once in a while, Costa lets loose with a surprising theme, and for fall, it appeared to be a late 1960s psychedelic hippie vibe, as seen through a minimalist lens. Flared pants, mini dresses with wide retro collars, and blackish knit dresses with aggressively frayed hems were the hits from this show (pictured below). Some looks were trimmed with long leather loops at the neckline, or rows of grommets, and a series of coats and dresses were made with narrow horizontal strips of leather for a fresh--and Calvin clean--take on patchwork.

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This has been a hectic New York Fashion Week. But it has also been a very strong one, ending with a triumphant collection from Marc Jacobs. Soaring, searing, scratching, clashing, clanging music heralded the start of his collection, in the Park Avenue Armory again, where a backdrop of painterly painted red murals and dangling ropes suggested a dilapidated theater before a show was about to begin. A Marc Jacobs show is always open to interpretations, so take this with a grain of salt, but I was reminded of the magnificently odd staging of “Anna Karenina” with Keira Knightley in the starring role from two years ago. My seatmate also said Russia. And the music was so dramatic, so terrifying in fact, that I took my valuables off and hid them in my shoe. Well, no, not really.

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But it was such a fabulous, perfect end to a week that set a high bar for fall fashion, one that London, Milan, and Paris designers will have to work hard to beat. Jacobs returned for the first time in years to a traditional one-way runway, highlighting the clothes as much as the atmosphere, and his designs were wonderful. Long sweeping skirts dusted the floor. Lavish dresses were layered with insanely gorgeous plaid coats, some with fur sleeves or wide sleeves or no sleeves. And the fabrics – textiles, really – were among the most extravagant examples of today’s fetish for fashion maximalism yet. Glittering brocades with knife pleats and strategically placed holes rendered skirts, like the rest of this collection, into works of art.

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