By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL
AP Fashion Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - A flurry of assistants rushed to protect racks of clothes 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.
Prabal Gurung is proposing a little more freedom in a woman's wardrobe.
The looser, less-constructed silhouette was seen from the first look, an ethereal white hand-embroidered jacket with beads and a trail of chiffon floating behind, to the last, a blush-colored strapless cocktail dress with ostrich feathers and "creeping sequins."
"Clothes are moving slightly away from the body. You know, especially what is happening around the world right now, especially in America with politics and everything, the idea of giving freedom to women sounds very, very exciting to me," he said backstage before the show.
Gurung didn't shy away from the heavily embellished path, even if it meant going his own way this round of previews, where other designers have pared down their looks.
He also took into account that women are always in motion. Maybe that explains the new take on "sweatpants" _ in printed silk.
One doesn't usually think of harsh military green as a color that will come off well on the fashion runway.
But at Edun, the label founded by U2 rocker Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, the color is used by designer Sharon Wauchob to embody toughness. Along with designs like a camouflage print, cargo pants, and utility vests, it's part of a protective "outer layer" that envelops softer, sexier items in fabrics like silk and chiffon.
"That's the duality of the Edun girl _ soft but edgy," Hewson said after the show. "This time, we wanted to take the intimacy of the bedroom out to the street. So for example you have cargo pants _ but in silk."
Edun was founded in 2005 by Bono and Hewson to promote change through a trading relationship with Africa. The Edun shows are big draws for fellow celebs, often musicians. On Saturday, singer Alicia Keys was on hand, as well as R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe.
"I love sexy clothes, so this was good for me," Keys said after the show.
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.)
Rebecca Taylor's muse for the spring season is the city girl _ normally quite content where she is _ who allows herself to dream of that tropical vacation from time to time.
On the runway, Taylor transported her to Hawaii. Of course, this urban dweller doesn't have board shorts. She packs a coral-colored hibiscus print T-shirt dress with sexy cutouts.
The collection also included soft, washed denim pieces contrasted with silk ones studded with jewels. When this girl touches back home and is ready to return to work, Taylor offered her a textured turquoise leather jacket, black dotted bra top and flirty black knit skirt.
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