New York Spring 2013 Fashion Week Report: Denim, Laidback Luxe Rule

We know how fashion loves to swing the proverbial pendulum. After last season’s burst of all things extravagant and bejeweled, much of the designer tribe is making a beeline for opposite shores. One of the early trends out of New York’s Sept. 6–13 Fashion Week was as anti-ornate as it gets: denim.

That staple of the American West popped up everywhere: DKNY (in light washes), 3.1 Phillip Lim (graphic patch­work treatments), Peter Som (pretty prints in collaboration with Earnest Sewn), and more. For the ­jewelry set, this means high-low mixes: “wearing ­jewelry to dress up jeans and a tee,” says Studio PR director Helena ­Krodel, adding that where denim can go 24/7, so can diamonds. “I love this new normal.” 

This new normal also swaps fall’s decadence for a burgeoning workwear vibe, where railroad stripes are the new black. Not that designers didn’t give the look a chic injection—check out the Altuzarra and Rag & Bone runways for two perfect examples. It’s a more grounded, utilitarian mood reflected elsewhere in the use of raw, earthy materials: raffia necklaces at Chris Benz or shell-and-cameo pieces at Anna Sui.

The biggest trend? Crafty beaded and woven wrap bracelets, layered on the wrist for a touch of casual bohemia. At Boy Band of Outsiders, Scott Sternberg piled them on to boost his line’s tribal–meets–Hunger Games mood; Rachel Roy used them as a laid-back counterpoint to her pulled-together lineup. Ralph Lauren had them, too, adding to his runway’s sense of wanderlust. “This is a great opportunity to play up the arm party. Think luxe friendship bracelets,” says Fragments CEO Janet Goldman. “It’s interesting to see people’s wrists on the street, their mix of bracelets and what each one means.” Wrap watches will also gain momentum, adds Krodel.

In fact, wristwear stole the spotlight during the collections. For every Tess Giberson doing thin leather wrap styles, there was a Tommy Hilfiger with chunky nautical-inspired cuffs or an Ohne Titel with bold bangles in angular screwball shapes. There was plenty of experimentation with materials as well, including amped-up interest in Lucite and plastics, best seen in pronounced bracelets at Michael Kors and Victoria, Victoria Beckham. Vivienne Tam, in her fine jewelry launch with TSL, mixed a whole cocktail of elements inspired by Chinese cosmology, like wood and fiery gemstones.

Designers haven’t forgotten about metals, but while the runways were awash in golden hues, experts say ­jewelry should zig where fashion zags. “For those invested in the gold fashion trend,” says Goldman, “I would recommend adding mixed metals—oxidized silver, for example, will take it down a notch.” Indeed, Carmen Marc Valvo went for stacked silver bangles by Hera, while Kimberly Ovitz opted for sleek silver ones worn high on the arm, Xena-style. (And Diane von Furstenberg, ever the diplomat, sent out versions of her door-knocker earrings in both sterling and sun-kissed shades.)

Another important trend: long cascading tassels and fringe. In the ­jewelry arena, the look’s reinterpreted as lariat necklaces (Rachel Zoe), dramatic drop earrings (Misha Nonoo), and swingy bracelets (Zero + Maria Cornejo).

And don’t ring the death knell for fall’s ladylike luxe just yet, especially with spring’s renewed focus on lace. As always, Oscar de la Renta is leading the charge, with romantic rose cuffs, rings, and collar necklaces—and a pair of beautiful bejeweled butterflies. Which leads us to another Fashion Week motif: florals and all things winged. “Jewelry inspired by nature is going to be huge,” says Goldman. “It’s happy, it tells a story—and makes a statement.”

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