Just as temperatures began to reflect autumn's imminent arrival on the East Coast, designers in New York City showed their visions for spring 2014 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
While many of the collections this go-round seemed to focus on safe, predictable choices, other designers took risks and attacked trends head-on. For those ready to get a jump on next year's styles, here's a primer on the top trends and the best labels of the season.
Sassy skirts: From textured feather numbers in assorted colors to mesh flared skirts from Milly, spring is all about skirts with attitude.
Island patterns: Tracy Reese channeled Afro-Cuban culture. Christian Siriano captured the Polynesian experience. Menswear designer David Hart paid homage to the golden age of Hawaiian tourism in the 1950s and '60s.
Decades du jour: Many collections gave references to retro styles. As celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch said, "There have been collections that have been very Mary Quant. I'm seeing a smidgen of 'Mad Men.' There are a lot of different decades — the '60s, '50s and '20s."
Flats: Vivienne Tam showed a good number of flat sandals — even with gowns. "It's going to be a foot-friendly spring," noted Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion reporter Robin Givhan.
Neons: From the undergarments at the Milly by Michelle Smith collection to the use of neons in the island-inspired prints of Mara Hoffman, bold colors ruled.
Black and white: Almost every designer showcased a piece with either one of the colors or a combination of both. The trend was evident in Jill Stuart's collection where steel blue became the pop of color among pieces such as a black and white geometric tunic and a cropped black lace top.
Floral patterns: Almost every collection featured some type of floral offering. From Rebecca Taylor's girlie dresses to BCBGMaxAzria's airy pieces, the runway was a floral frenzy at times.
Menswear for women: This style, popular for fall/winter, hangs on through spring. Collared shirts, pants and other traditionally masculine pieces played a major role in most collections. Tracy Reese featured a number of fedoras in her show.
Sheers: From Lacoste's futuristic sheer trench coats and jackets to J. Mendel's airy dresses and blouses, sheer pieces played a big role in many collections. A number of designers opted for sheer paneling in strategic places, which added a little spice to otherwise demure frocks. Others added large sheer strips to the bottoms of dresses for a dramatic effect.
Fabric blocking: Leather panels broke up tweeds and silks for interesting textural contrast.
Cropped tops and more: Blouses, jackets and shorts were all fair game for shortening.
Best in shows
David Tlale: A public fallout with "America's Next Top Model" judge and fashion PR royalty Kelly Cutrone hasn't seemed to put a dent in this South African designer's career, which launched in 2003 and got an international boost in 2007 when he was invited to show in the Paris Couture collections. From a black gown adorned with feathers to a sequin and tulle flared skirt, Tlale delivered imaginative, on-trend spring pieces.
Desigual: This Spanish brand, which opened U.S. offices in 2010, is known for bold colors and patterns. The spring collection was dominated by airy geometric and floral prints for both separates and dresses in dramatic black-and-whites and tropical brights.
Tracy Reese: Reese has found herself in the pop culture spotlight as a designer favored by Michelle Obama. For spring, the Detroit native showed an Afro-Cuban-inspired collection filled with separates and wearable dresses. Her repeated use of fedoras throughout the collection showed that the current menswear look for women will last well into next year.
Jenny Packham: The U.K. designer's girlie pastel frocks and sparkly gowns had a definite flower child vibe. Packham's eveningwear is a popular choice for red-carpet events, and this show attracted celebs such as "Mad Men" star Christina Hendricks. (Note: The Duchess of Cambridge sported a pretty blue Packham dress for the first public viewing of the royal baby this summer.)
David Hart: The Severna Park native, who recently expanded from luxury accessories into full menswear collections and has become known for his fine tailoring and use of rich colors, unveiled the most exciting men's collection in New York. Inspired by Hawaiian tourism in the '50s and '60s, the collection showed modern takes on classic linens and silks.
Mara Hoffman: Hands down, New York-based Hoffman best captured the season's island trend with rich neons, airy fabrics, bold geometrics and even tie-dye.
Nicole Miller: Miller, whose special-occasion dresses continue to be very successful commercially, has been working with Joe Zee, creative director of Elle and host of the Sundance Channel's "All on the Line." The goal was to give the veteran designer's sportswear collection more appeal for a younger, hipper consumer, and it worked: This collection had more of an editorial runway feel than her previous shows. With lots of wearable separates, there was plenty of pattern mixing and matching with florals and stripes.
Herve Leger: Aside from the Diane Von Furstenberg show, this show offered the most glitz and glamour at Lincoln Center. The mixing of leather corset details with flared skirts or shorts set the collection apart. The repeated use of zippers throughout the line — especially with swimwear —was modern and appealing.
Carmen Marc Valvo: The designer attracted big names to his show, including Vanessa Williams and "Orange Is the New Black" star Dascha Polanco. Body-con dresses dominated the collection that was filled with fabric-blocking and sheer insets, but swimwear and gowns were equally strong. The color-blocked bobs that the models rocked were also haute. "This was much more architectural than what he's done in the past," noted celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch.
J. Mendel: The Parisian brand known for luxury and femininity showed off satin frocks, a soft pastel yellow fur vest atop a matching lace dress and a sleeveless black gown with strategically placed lace that was sexy and smart.
Nail these fall/winter polish trends
If you're not quite ready for spring, fall's trends can be at your fingertips. In just three years, Laurel resident Jasmine Smith is a nail technician in Washington and just completed a successful run at Fashion Week, working designers such as Tadoshi Shoji, Monique Lhuillier and Nicole Miller. Here, Smith, 32, shares some of the season's hottest nail trends.
Metallics: Look for shades from bronze to purple.
Whites: "Even though summer is over, white is carrying over into fall and winter. Colors such as stark white and ivory are especially popular," she said."Make sure you choose the best color white for your complexion."
Short nails: Stiletto nails are phasing out.
Minimal nail art: "Last year was all about 3-D nails and textured nails. Now it's about simple lines," she said.
Layering polish: "That's big," Smith said. "It will give you a different color effect."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun