NEW YORK (AP) - A flurry of fashion assistants rushed to protect racks of clothes backstage at New York Fashion Week from Saturday's sudden downpours - perhaps as potent a reminder as any during these spring previews that seasons can be temperamental.
Maybe that's why leather is as common in these previews for spring and summer 2013 as the pops of color and chiffon you might expect.
"You can wear those leather jackets all year long," said stylist June Ambrose. "They're sleek enough to go under a parka or a vest and buttery enough for spring."
Designers have been moving away from seasonal dressing, meaning that models at Rag & Bone endured layers of leather in a roasting un-air conditioned preview on Friday.
"I'm not designing specifically for 'the show' or even for spring," said Tom Mora of J. Crew, which has a preview here on Tuesday. "We have deliveries once a month and we always want it to look new."
The crowd traded tank tops and open-toed shoes on Friday for long sleeves and boots on Saturday as rain leaked through the tents at Lincoln Center. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week previews for retailers, editors and stylists continue for eight days, before the fashion crowd heads for London, Milan and Paris.
Designer Jill Stuart says spring is her favorite season, and she tried to convey that in a runway collection that celebrated lightness and femininity.
That's what Stuart does these days: pretty clothes that don't reinvent the wheel. There was a delicate white lace tea-time dress, and lingerie-inspired silk tap pants with a bustier top covered by a trench. A high-neck, bone-colored blouse was made of lace and dotted with flower appliques, and a seafoam-green, one-shouldered dress with a keyhole cutout on the top and a pleated skirt gave the catwalk a shot of color.
She is aiming for "timeless, elegant dresses that are always capturing the season," Stuart said backstage, but that could really be worn anytime. "I want to wear the black lace dress that's opening the show right now, tonight." (She has a dinner date with her daughter.)
Lace has been a signature of Stuart for a long time, but her shapes have moved from girlie to more ladylike. Actress Rose Byrne, who sat in the front row, might consider the sparkly beaded halter top and languid silk pajama pants - perfect for someone who can pull off the relaxed glamour of old-school Hollywood.
The town met the country when designer Billy Reid infused his men's and women's collections with some of his Alabama charm.
Ascots, pelican prints and fishing shirts took over a very urban space Friday night sandwiched between art galleries in Chelsea. He offered a coated cotton utility jacket paired with high-waisted trousers and a gold linen shirtdress with exaggerated pockets for women, and a leather peak-lapel jacket, worn with a linen mock turtleneck and sharkskin-texture trouser for men.
When Reid's two worlds come together, the audience sees charm, good taste and a bit of wit. Perhaps more importantly, though, there's a sense of reality here: There are stylish linen sportcoats, luxe - and on-trend - leather looks, and well-tailored suits, including chic, slim pantsuits for women, that one could imagine being worn by the finicky fashion crowd and everyone else.
The warning should come that while the styles have broad appeal, the price tags might not. Reid seems to favor rich fabrics and materials, especially suedes, lambskin and leather in beige, bone and tobacco.