For Autumn/Winter 2010 Karan was thinking dark - we were almost halfway through before she sent out anything resembling colour.
Ease - and easy dressing - has always been Donna Karan's shtick. The ethos of her seven easy pieces informed eighties corporate power-dressing, and whether women were really willing or able to pare down their wardrobes to quite so tiny a capsule, the idea of throw-on-and-forget clothing for chic go-getters is still very much at the root of her fashion. For Autumn/Winter 2010 Karan was thinking dark - we were almost halfway through before she sent out anything resembling colour (a shot of vibrant amethyst and rich teal, since you ask) - all the better for the layers of cocooning cloth to mix and match. If Karan is a modern mistress of relaxed, clean elegance, this collection glanced back to all-time master Balenciaga. His influence could be seen in trapeze coats with graceful three-quarter length sleeves, textured cloque and mattelasse and an echo of his Velasquez-inspired Infanta line with pannier effects puffing out at the hips. The latter somewhat contradicts Karan's claim to clean-dressing fame, but at the same time those emphasised hips managed somehow to seem wearable, even when popped out like a pair of tennis balls on a short felted wool jacket with raised seams. Seams were a theme throughout - which sounds like a hairbrained statement, but Karan consistently emphasised hers with welting, topstitching and ribbon binding on inside-out selvedges to form spare, abstract decoration. Those cocooning, easy Balenciaga shapes formed the vast majority of the daywear, with roomy, unstructured duster jackets with wide soft lapels and curved revers shrugged on over short dresses in matching shades of grey, aubergine, and granite green alongside black, black and black. With such an inky predominance, much was made of textural play - the surfaces of a couple of frocks were tufted with feathers and dripping in jet, while petal-shapes formed ruffs around the had in contrast panels of melton, fox and astrakhan. Come cocktail and those petals descended around the hips to form short, ruffled taffeta crinolines, contrasting with washed-silk puffballs deflated so their balloon fullness was merely a twist and tuck at the hem. These were less successful, straying as they did from Karan's slouchy wearability into the eighties evening frou-frou she originally offered an antidote to. A couple of sinuous, floor-length bias-cut satin slips were more successful (cerebral Oscar contenders, no doubt) but the focus was indisputably on the petrol-hued daywear. This collection marks Karan's 25th year in the business - far from being rehashed retrospective, this return to her roots only served to reemphasise how relevant her foundations of ease and simplicity can still feel for women here and now.