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updated: 9/10/2013 10:14 AM

Celebrities turn low key at N.Y. Fashion Week

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  • The Zac Posen 2014 collection is modeled during Fashion Week in New York.

      The Zac Posen 2014 collection is modeled during Fashion Week in New York.
    Associated Press

  • The Zac Posen Spring 2014 collection is modeled during Fashion Week in New York.

      The Zac Posen Spring 2014 collection is modeled during Fashion Week in New York.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Fashion insiders love to dress celebrities for big splashy Hollywood events, but they don't necessarily want them at their own big splashy event: New York Fashion Week.

As spring previews slid into their fifth day, there has been some departure from the approach of putting boldface names in the coveted front row seats -- and letting them steal some of the thunder from designers.

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Oscar de la Renta limited his guest list, telling Women's Wear Daily he was focusing on the people who had a real reason to be there, not "20 million people with zero connection to the clothes." Tommy Hilfiger, once a celebrity magnet, said Monday that he wanted to return the focus to fashion.

"I don't like the drama in the fashion world. I like to do our thing without the drama," he said backstage before his show.

There were still plenty of tabloid favorites -- Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan have all made appearances -- but they are more of a rarity than in years past, when they were invited en masse and thrown in front of paparazzi. How many people were really focused on the Herve Leger dresses on the runway Saturday when Nicki Minaj was right in front of them? (At least designer Max Azria was smart enough to put her in a new look from the spring collection.)

For the celebrities-turned-designers, it's an even more careful dance. Katie Holmes, Victoria Beckham, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have all made long-term commitments to their fashion brands, slowly and delicately courting editors, stylists and retailers, instead of the paparazzi.

The Olsen twins moved their show from the Upper East Side to Soho downtown, far from the Lincoln Center tents, for their intimate unveiling.

Holmes and her partner, Jeanne Yang, invited no photographers -- save one house cameraman -- and only a couple of dozen top-tier editors and stylists for their show in a Chelsea gallery space close to the Garment District.

"It's in my neighborhood. We walked here," Holmes said.

Tommy Hilfiger: Hilfiger filled a hangarlike venue on the West Side with sand and built his own boardwalk for surf-inspired styles.

"It's really from the inspiration of Melrose to Malibu, and we brought Malibu to New York," he said. "It's about surfing and skating, sporty lifestyles, about color and the modern cool woman."

There were colorblocked neoprene pieces -- one of the biggest trends emerging from these seasonal previews -- shown alongside denim and olive surplus styles.

Top model Joan Smalls had on a leather basketball jersey (No. 1, of course) paired with denim track pants.

The Row: The Olsens draped their gallery space with gauzy fabric for a look at clothes that seemed what a woman of means, but one who shuns the spotlight or fuss, would take on safari.

Wonder if the twins are planning a trip?

Two years ago, they won the Council of Fashion Designers of America's top prize in womenswear and continue with the aesthetic that got them there. Shapes are long, lean and worn in lots of layers. Some of the clothes were purposely crinkled or with unfinished edges.

Carolina Herrera: Herrera was among the exceptions to that low-key celebrity thing.

Her guests included Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci, the R&B singer Ne-Yo, "Mad Men" actress Christina Hendricks and "Downton Abbey" star Michelle Dockery.

The packed crowd was regaled with elegant, ethereal gowns featuring geometric motifs enhanced by the layering of fabrics, which gave them the appearance of constant movement.

The inspiration? Kinetic art, or art in motion. "It's the reaction of two layers -- I find that this is totally kinetic," Herrera said in a post-show interview, as well-wishers crushed around her. "It creates its own movement."

Holmes and Yang said their spring collection is about wearable elegance.

The mix they offered included a black silk V-neck gown with leather trim and a khaki camp-style shirtdress with a lace-up V at the neck.

The duo said they wanted to start their business quietly, grow slowly and do it right.

Zac Posen: Zac Posen started draping his collection almost three months ago, and he was still doing it right up until the first look appeared on the runway.

It wasn't a last-minute rush -- in fact, everything seemed incredibly quiet just before his show on Sunday night. It simply takes that long to hand-pleat chiffon and hand-paint organza. "Given the intensity of this collection, it has all been very calm," he said.

Posen even took a nap for almost an hour after the final sound and lighting checks, and before receiving a pep talk by phone from friend Naomi Campbell.

Models are important to Posen: Their loyalty and enthusiasm launched his career. Coco Rocha wore the first look on the catwalk, a pale-pink chiffon cape dress. Lindsey Wixson wore an ivory-colored bustier gown and go-to Posen muse Crystal Renn wore a lemon-colored frock with a wisteria print and fluttery short sleeves.

Derek Lam: Derek Lam's clothes always have a pronounced urban edge. For spring, he wanted to be playful, too.

His show had some unexpected nuances such as sparks of bright yellow, breaking up his usual crisp color palette of black, white and navy. An elegant yellow crepe strapless gown came in sharp contrast to the series of bold plaids, in black and white or blue and white, that began the show.

"My work has always been rooted in American sportswear. So I'm just loosening it up, relaxing a bit," Lam said.

Edun: There was more than big, bold graphics on display at Edun, the label founded by rocker Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson.

There was also the debut of a new designer -- Danielle Sherman -- and a front row where Bono and Hewson were joined by Trudie Styler, Gina Gershon and Christy Turlington Burns.

The collection was heavy on black-and-white pieces in bold geometric prints: skirts, coats, roomy pants and short tanks over longer, flowing tops. There were also some large, soft gray sweaters, sportswear in bright orange and leather pieces in white, black and a rich cayenne color.

Edun was founded in 2005 by Bono and Hewson to promote change through a trading relationship with Africa. Many of its garments are traditionally produced in Africa or made from fabrics sourced there.

Band of Outsiders: Los Angeles-based designer Scott Sternberg really, really likes "The House of the Rising Sun." The song played many times both before and during his show.

But the collection was inspired by much more than a 1960s vibe, Sternberg said afterward.

"Hollywood noir, sirens, bohemia, and Robert Altman's `The Long Goodbye,"' he said, listing the themes that guided him. "All mixed with something super-sporty, fresh and pure."

Translated into clothes, that meant a lot of very comfortable, sporty yet urban looks which would fit right in Los Angeles -- indeed, the Hollywood sign, or actually the back of it, figured prominently into Sternberg's stylish visuals. But they'd work for a young customer pretty much anywhere else, too, in these informal days.

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