Dispatches from New York: Donna Karan, The Row & more

NYFW: Donna Karan, Thom Browne, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Tommy Hilfiger, The Row

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By: Rebecca Lowthorpe Follow @Rebecca_ELLE

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1. Donna Karan 2. Thom Browne 3. Tommy Hilfiger

How did Donna Karan celebrate 30 years in fashion? This is the designer who gave women the Seven Easy Pieces – the collection of foundation basics that kicked off her career in 1985 – and last night, of course, they were all there. The show, which pulled a crowd that included Katie Holmes and Hugh Jackman, was held in a drafty place down on Wall Street – an apt location, since Donna Karan’s clothes once fuelled the 1980s power-dressing revolution and are still synonymous with high-powered working women today. But this didn’t feel like a retrospective. Those great jackets for which she is so well known? Worn here with nothing but sexy thigh-high suede boots. Those sensuous long devoré dresses like the gold one that Demi Moore once modelled in a Donna Karan campaign? All present, in blacks, greys and sumptuous reds – the colours of New York, the city that made her, she said: ‘Thirty years later, I see style as an evolution, a unique reflection of who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going… The journey continues.’

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Thom Browne took us to church. There were wooden pews, crosses, candles, incense and a discordant organ and choir. And yet, despite all that effort, the atmosphere fell poignantly flat. It was as if the audience had turned into fidgety children, enduring a particularly long-winded sermon spent calculating nothing but their fastest exit. If the models walked painfully slowly, it was the men dressed in robes with lace veils over their faces who knelt on wooden pews for the duration I felt most sorry for. For all that, Thom Browne fascinates me. I saw his clothes hanging in Rei Kawakubo’s new Dover Street store today – and they looked remarkable. This show was weirdly hypnotic with its Vatican-meets-Hollywood excesses and there’s no denying the craftsmanship is wondrously, forensically precise, even if what we’re talking about here is opulently treated costume, not clothes – sleeves and hips stiffened, corsets, capes and skirts that require teeny-tiny steps. It was weirdly gripping, but, honestly, what modern woman wants to totter when she can stride?

Right to left: 3.1 Philipp Lim, Tommy Hilfiger, The Row

That’s what the models did at 3.1 Phillip Lim – they strode around in great, serviceable, retail-easy clothes – panelled dresses, big carpenter trousers, fluid mid-calf skirts, interesting ruffled knits. The block-coloured, patchworked coats and jean jackets rendered in soft teddy-bear fabric were best. And the colours – lilac with chocolate, raspberry with cream and cool mint – looked quite delicious.

Tommy Hilfiger presented us with a snow globe – as if there wasn’t enough of the stuff outside. All that was missing from the set of snow-drenched firtrees were a couple of log fires (hot chocolate would’ve been nice, too). Plaids, parkas, beanies, fleece-linings, fur-trimmings, skater skirts, big jeans and great boots. Après-ski-meets-street from Tommy Hilfiger – what’s not to love?

The biggest highlight in New York so far has been The Row. Designed by Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, it is not at all what you might expect. Low key in every respect, the quiet presentation took place early yesterday morning on a thick cream carpet. Models padded out in androgynous flat lace-ups worn with school-girl grey socks, and quite possibly the most luxuriously warm and cosy fabrics known to man. From the opening cowl-neck cashmere sweaters and matching asymmetric hemmed skirts, made from what they called ‘fur cashmere’, to the beautiful pale silk jacquard dresses and the crocodile bags, it made you wonder who could afford such softly spoken spectacular luxury. But with the freezing weather here in New York, you couldn’t help but wish it was you.

See all our coverage of Autumn/Winter 2014

The The Row Collection

Street Style from NYFW 2014

Celebs front row at NYFW

Read Rebecca Lowthorpe's review of Victoria Beckham

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