NEW YORK — The starlets lining the front row of New York Fashion Week on Friday would be right at home in the simultaneously refined and youthful styles parading before them.
The look on the second day of more than 100 previews for retailers, editors and stylists balanced a ladylike elegance with a youthful flair. Light colors and lace details were offset by cutouts or even leather harnesses.
Allison Williams of HBO's "Girls" and Hailee Steinfeld of "True Grit" watched the muted florals on denim and midriff-baring cutouts at Peter Som. Emily Mortimer was on hand for Jason Wu, who said his collection aimed to balance beautiful refinement with something provocative and sexy.
"I love the idea of those two coming together — a softness and a hardness coming together and I wanted to make a collection that sort of balanced, just teetered on that line of sexy but still sophisticated," he said.
Meanwhile, the drama of "Project Runway" took center stage for the 10th anniversary season of a show that designer and judge Michael Kors said thrives because "fashion people by nature are a little high-strung, a little dramatic."
"Quite frankly, fashion people are interesting," he said. "Nothing against accountants but we are not a group of accountants, that's for sure."
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week previews for retailers, editors and stylists continue for eight days, before the fashion crowd heads for London, Milan and Paris.
For Som's refined and youthful look, muted floral prints were shown on denim (part of Som's partnership with Earnest Sewn) and midriff-baring cutouts were carved into ladylike sheath dresses that fell below the knee. A pink orchid-print bustier dress was dotted with a bit of more demure lace.
Standard button-down shirts and a lace T-shirt were jazzed up with jeweled collars.
Olympic gold-medal runner Sanya Richards Ross was there, fully decked out in one of Som's lace numbers. "I love fashion. It's in my genes. If you saw my grandmother going to the grocery store, you'd think she was having lunch with the Obamas. We're always dressed up," she said.
Som is known to play with texture, and he created a colorful patchwork of snakeskin chevrons. The best version was the shift that was mostly a mix of pinks and purples on top, and chartreuse below the dropped waist.
There wasn't a lot of room for error on the Jason Wu runway. But he didn't need it.
From Carolyn Murphy's opening crocodile-like leather sheath to the navy silk tulle harness gown with embroidery that closed the show, the look was slim and sophisticated. Lace insets, bra tops, sheer fabrics and sharp tuxedos turned into shorts kept lively what were really refined, classic silhouettes.
Wu, in a backstage interview, said he was inspired by two photographers with differing styles — Helmut Newton and Lillian Basman. It was the second show in the early going to make specific reference to Newton, which could explain the dominance of black and white. It was also the second to put leather harnesses on the models to give them a little bit of edge. They topped a white-lace embroidered shirt worn with black croc shorts, and over a pink lace sheath that also got a little bounce from a peplum.
One would imagine that first lady Michelle Obama, who helped propel Wu to hot-ticket status after she wore his gown to the 2008 inauguration, would wear her black-and-white "ghost print" satin sheath with organza insets sans leather hardware.
There was intrigue — and Heidi Klum in barely there gold — at the "Project Runway" show that will decide who wins the 10th anniversary season.
Eight contestants thanked their loved ones and shared their inspirations in the hour-long parade before the judges on the Lifetime series and a huge crowd at the Lincoln Center tents.
But only three or four of the eight remain in the running to win the milestone season (the others were shills to keep us guessing). The finale, based on judging of the Fashion Week looks, will air Oct. 18 with guest judge Jennifer Hudson.
"Wow, 10 seasons, who would have thought that would happen," Klum told the crowd, dressed in a sparkly, backless gown. With a front-row kiss for her producer, Harvey Weinstein, she assured fans of an 11th season.
There was a touch of mesh in jackets and tops from Gunnar Deatherage, a self-taught, 22-year-old designer from Kentucky who learned to sew at age 7 from his grandmother.
Elena Silvnyak, 28 and originally from the Ukraine, sent models out with bright yellow and green lips, two-tone fitted dresses and tunics.
An always serious Venn Budhu managed a rare smile at the end of his show, which featured impeccable bodices and necks in constructed layers of fabric on formal gowns and cocktail dresses in reds and off-whites.
Sonjia Williams, 27, another New Yorker, sent down an ode to herself, a "bold, strong, confident woman," with blue lace in leggings and tops, a wide-waisted skirt in a floral print and shorts in a piped leatherette.