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Simple looks are deceiving at NY Fashion Week

Monday - 9/9/2013, 8:06am  ET

The Alexander Wang Spring 2014 collection is modeled during Fashion Week in New York, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

SAMANTHA CRITCHELL
AP Fashion Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The simple things can be the hardest to do in fashion, because you have to do them well.

Take the white shirt. Designers Peter Som and Max Azria both said a plain white button-down shirt is their favorite thing to see on a woman, and versions of it have been on nearly every catwalk during the previews of Spring 2014 at New York Fashion Week that entered their third day Saturday.

But these basics are far from simple for designers. Prabal Gurung said that with such crisp pieces, you can't hide behind embellishment or interesting fabric. When it's simple, it has to be perfect.

"Ease isn't easy," echoed Jason Wu, who showed feather-light and sometimes sheer slip dresses that were carefully constructed. "The things you think are going to be simple can sometimes be really hard."

Lucky magazine Editor in Chief Eva Chen wore a white button-down to previews on Friday and said the versions popping up on runways -- whether as detail peeking out from a dress or reflecting spare 90s minimalism -- are "nothing if not wearable -- with jeans and ballet slippers, with a ballgown, and everything in between."

"This season, when it comes to choosing a white shirt, it IS all about the tweaks and the details. Is the cut cropped (a silhouette of the season, whether you like it or not!), are there details or embellishments at the collar?" she said by email. "Those details are what feminize a white shirt and make it special."

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ALEXANDER WANG

As if fashion fans didn't already know his name and the youthful, hipster aesthetic he owns at New York Fashion Week, Alexander Wang spelled it all out for them at his runway show Saturday.

Several of the models who zigzagged the complicated catwalk at the West Side pier that the designer often uses wore looks adorned with "Wang."

Wang, who now splits his time between his own label in New York and Balenciaga in Paris, sat Kanye West, Kerry Washington and Miguel in his front row and first came out with uncharacteristic crisp and clean looks. Think of the cotton miniskirts and cropped button-downs that his downtown muse would wear if they were invited to the country club over a weekend.

Eventually, though, those morphed into laser-cut leather, which seems more of a fit for his customer.

Erin Wasson, a longtime friend of Wang's, walked in a white jumper -- sans shirt -- that hid the designer's name under each pleat, visible with each step.

It's "Wang-xiety," said Courtney Love from her front-row seat.

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PRABAL GURUNG

Prabal Gurung's spring collection was built on the idea of "the idealized woman."

But don't confuse Gurung's feminine muse with a girly one: The sheath dresses with unexpected cutouts and harnesses, and the pearlescent pink shirtdress and sky-blue draped dress with a cascading back ruffle were more chic than sweet.

He also showed a crisp white shirt -- seemingly simple from the front --that had an open back engineered with a clear, plastic harness.

The finale gown, a black column with a white satin panel embroidered with vertical blocks of black and purple sequins, was incredibly artful and worthy of the elaborate stage setting. Gurung had all the models boxed inside clear plastic panels, and one by one, they'd take a spin around the runway.

Transparency was a theme here, including an eye-catching sheer sheath with a giant, hand-embroidered red rose, paired with a slim rose-painted pencil skirt. There also was a printed PVC raincoat worn with green silk skinny pants.

Gurung said in an interview that sometimes the craftsmen he works with are skeptical of his requests, but together they'll take the risks. "They look at me perhaps as if I have 12 heads, you know," he said. "I always say, 'Look, if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out,' but at least we have the satisfaction of trying."

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JILL STUART

Jill Stuart had rock chicks on holiday in mind for her edgy but girly spring collection.

Caftans, micro-minis and teeny shorts with tunics came mostly in the requisite black and white for a beachy yet chic-y vibe.

The designer said in a backstage interview that she had just returned from Patmos in Greece when inspiration struck, though this Stuart girl is a rock girlfriend of yore.

"I was thinking what they should be wearing on this great holiday, or what they'd be wearing back in 1971 and in the south of France," she said.

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