BY CONSTANCE C.R. WHITE

So, did it work?

Can designers forgo the current hoopla of the runway and still make an impact?

Fashion is poised for big changes in how clothes are presented and sold and the first wave of experimenters were on deck as designers like
Diane von Furstenberg, Tracy Reese and The Row dispensed with runway shows and instead gave us a more exclusive way of experiencing their designs.

Nothing feels better than closeness. We humans crave it and there was an intimacy to the events these designers staged. Will they ever go back to runways as we know them? Who knows. But intimacy sure feels good.

Von Furstenberg made her New York City store and studio into a joyous fashion party with tableaus that had models cavorting in and out of closed doors and around a fantasy work space (fanciful because they weren’t really working except that they were working, as in, ‘Girl, you better werk’). Breezy dresses and skirts were inspired by dance. A melange of prints, sometimes in one piece of clothing, at other times layered, added depth and serendipity.

Von Furstenberg took center stage in one vignette, appropriately starring in her own show, a designer, helping models polish their looks. She tied a belt here, added accessories there.

A tad more serious, but no less sweet, was Reese’s debut film, “A Detroit Love Story,” a love letter to her hometown, created by her and a local director Ali Nassar, with original music by Regina Carter. The bright and elegiac short took the viewer through a tour of the city, with glimpses of Reese’s designs serving touchstones from scene to scene.

Following the film, guests moved from the theater, where Bloomingdale’s honchos including Stephanie Solomon and Frank Doroff had sat engrossed, to a set in a bar room where a live, dexterous piano player and 15 or so models preened in jazzy splendor. Set and clothes melded in a romantic symbiosis. Lace was important and a feminine vibe flowed through the soft, nostalgic dresses and sexy lace numbers that were literally grounded by masculine shoes with suspenders and socks. With so much sheerness and light, a melange faux fur in black, gray and white hues was just what you might need to cozily cover up.

While Reese played with female and male signifiers, J. Crew’s straightforward approach highlighted the popular store’s lines for women and men. Brights ruled for both. Jenna Lyons, president and executive creative director, warmed the troops in her trademark wonky glasses, a convincing billboard for her message dressed as she was in a vivid pink and proving that bold colors need not be childish. Luxe brocades gave a rich patina to suits for women as well as men and there were plenty of the brand’s go-to accessories.

Under Lyon’s design direction, J. Crew has made itself a destination for women and men alike, an accomplishment that until now Brooks Brothers could only envy.

For all the women who heretofore had nothing to buy when they went on tie-buying trips with their men to BB, game on. Shopping expeditions to the fabled men’s power suit brand will now be more fun. There’s still the smart camelhair coat, but classic can take you only so far. Zac Posen has injected style into women’s with abstract prints, stylish boxy handbags and unexpected colors that would nonetheless kick butt in the board room and pass the stylish power woman test with lean-inners like Marissa Mayer.

For fans and I-will-not-be-stopped fashionistas who braved the frigid temperatures, Vivienne Hu heated up the Art Beam space with a dozen or so interesting pieces. Lace and leather in a tiered dress. Black leather exposing butt-cheeks beneath an asymmetrical jacket. Hu stuck to the traditional runway show format and it worked for her. Change comes slowly until it seems to come upon us all of a sudden.