Fashion week

Designer Shayne Oliver stands in front of racks of his Hood By Air clothing line. Oliver says that he was inspired as a young designer by the likes of Helmut Lang and Raf Simons. Photo for The Washington Post by Jesse Dittmar)


NEW YORK — There has been a lot of mood-altering fashion galloping down the runway here the past few days. Trippy, intoxicating, buzz-inducing fashion. Perhaps you are in a grumpy mood. Or maybe you are tired. Then out come all these spring 2015 collections with their zesty prints dripping in sequins — a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns all swirling together like some hallucinatory dream. You stop thinking clearly, forgetting that these clothes are sure to be obscenely expensive. It doesn't matter. It's too late. You saw it. You breathed it all in. You are floating; you feel high. And it is legal.

Guests walked into designer Thom Browne's fourth-floor loft on Monday to find a manicured garden, its freshly laid sod surrounded by a miniature hedgerow and its marble pillars topped with live models done up like statuary. A woman dressed as a sailboat stood proudly on one side; several others wardrobed like giant Gerbera daisies — their lean green-suited bodies topped with giant multi-petal hats.

The audience had been waiting for almost an hour. Folks shifted impatiently in their seats, expressions turning sour, fingers clicking on mobile phones to check the time.

Finally: action! Signaling the start of the show, a gardener in a green seersucker jacket, shorts and tan fishnets appeared with a manual lawnmower. Bits of chewed grass flew into the air as it rolled over the sod.

Then a woman's voice over the speakers silenced the audience's rumbling. Diane Keaton quietly began to narrate a short story written by Browne — a tale of six sisters and the manner in which they dressed on each day of the week. But the words took a backseat to the dazzling garments that appeared on the freshly mown runway. Flowers sprouted from sequined coats, tweed suits, straight skirts and leather handbags. It was a collection in which women didn't simply wear floral dresses; they were practically transformed into flowers.

The shapes of the garments were subdued and stayed close to the body. There were few of Browne's customary exaggerated silhouettes. The simplicity in cut left plenty of room for adornment.

Surely one could have dissected the story in search of a moral, parsed it for psychological meaning. But why go wandering out of the light in search of the shadows? Joy, fun and sheer delight were unleashed on Browne's runway at full, breathtaking velocity. Might as well enjoy the rush.

Designer Tracy Reese used dance to jolt her audience to attention on Sunday afternoon. Her collection was inspired, in particular, by Martha Graham. The presentation of her collection, one of her most lushly creative and sensual in recent memory, opened with a group of performers in black leotards stretching their arms toward the heavens.

Reese separated her collection into three acts. The first opened with a black, floor-length trench coat worn over a black leotard and fluid black trousers. The fabric swirled around the model as she walked — seductive and alluring in its movement.

The second act exploded with floral prints, mirrored paillettes and sequins. Patterns were layered one atop the other, creating a cacophonous collage of beauty. Viewing it was akin to looking out over a field of flowers where dahlia-printed coats bloom next to cacti-patterned T-shirts. It was breathless and chaotic and left one exhausted from the sheer surge of endorphins unleashed at the sight of it.

Reese's third act was dedicated to eveningwear, with grand gowns and short party dresses, some beaded and sequined and others that floated around the body like a fine mist.

It was one of Reese's most beautiful collections — sexy, boisterous and kickstarted by the power of the body in movement and the grace of seduction.

The attraction to flowers and light-heartedness are not surprising in spring collections. But the past few days have brought more than just a perfunctory nod to garden-party prints. The work was exceptional because of technique and attitude.

Ralph Lauren — the household name, the brand, the Seventh Avenue titan — took a risk Monday night. He presented his new Polo collection for women as a holographic display projected against a wall of water in Central Park, the lights from the Dakota apartment building off in the distance.

Guests gathered in the park, the pitch-blackness broken by strings of white lights and handsome men in white Polo shirts holding flashlights illuminating the pathway to a well-stocked bar and cabana. As everyone stood facing a small lake, an enormous spray of water broke the stillness. And what was described by the company as "4-D" technology kicked in as virtual models — holograms of real women — dressed in the spring collection, appeared to walk on water.

The magical background shifted from New York streets to a lonely lighthouse to the Brooklyn Bridge. The clothes themselves were almost impossible to see clearly. But it didn't matter. The evening was about razzle-dazzle, not clothes. It was intended to make the audience gasp in wonder. Can I really believe my eyes? It was just like the past few days have been. Trippy. Loopy. Fun.

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