c.2014 New York Times News Service

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — “I am launching Polo Ralph Lauren for women and opening a store, but I wanted to show that the two worlds are the same,” said Lauren, who Thursday gave a second dimension to his elegant Ralph Lauren presentation, which was played out in pastel colors, easy fur pieces and draped, almost Grecian dresses.

They followed a more girlie path than Polo’s upscale hippie trail, a vision of the 1970s that opened the runway show. Think plaids, brightly colored cardigans and a long dress with a pattern like a Kilim rug. Add jaunty berets, Mary Janes and a pair of Day-Glo down jackets to hit the 21st century.

It may be tough to make the new line as iconic and basic, yet instantly identifiable, as Polo Ralph Lauren for men. The presentation Thursday looked like a child-and-mom show. The main line was so gentle and genteel that the shades of lavender, lilac and mauve, fading to gray, and the tailored pants with cashmere sweaters and fur throws, seemed just right for Kim Basinger, sitting front row.

This was Ralph Lauren light and polite, with no hint of the violent snowstorm raging outside — and not much of a strong step forward, except for Polo. There are two ways to cope with the reality of winter: Face it or escape it.

But a powerful show from Michael Kors had New York indulging in a bit of California dreaming. The designer is on a roll, with stellar retail figures following his successful public offering in late 2011, so why wouldn’t he let the sunshine in on his winter 2014 collection?

“We were in Big Sur, and I thought — when we are all stuck in this city, where it’s cold and urban and gray and slushy — ‘Isn’t this where we want to be?’” the designer said to explain the hints of a 1970s hippie, but one dressed in a luxurious way, with suede skirts and bags swaying with fringe.

And clients in the front row, from Aerin Lauder to Freida Pinto, raved about the effects.

The collection was based on coats: big, bold, furry, maybe a dip-dyed fox, but always with a sporty glamour. Kors is not an innovator. Yves Saint Laurent and the hippies in San Francisco sexualized the peasant blouse 40 years ago. But his version, so white and pure against a black herringbone skirt, was typical of the collection’s subtle textural messages, like alpaca and mohair played off against python. In a season when so many shows have seemed timid, yet elaborate, Kors does get the American fashion dream: easy, energetic clothes.

There were clues to Proenza Schouler’s game. First, the invitation itself, with multicolored pieces of spongy fabric pressed into the cardboard; then, the words, printed in double lines like a train track: “energy, abstraction, humor, action, color, instinct, spontaneous, fast.”

Very fast, actually. The models walked at high speed, heads down or with defiant faces, their shoes flat and two-tone. The clothes were cut in the round; the coats and jackets had a twirling circle at the shoulders, with a touch of Balenciaga — the original Cristóbal — in the sculptural form.

Surprisingly, in spite of the precision cutting and fabrics that often looked like carpet underlay, the clothes were charming and interesting, not haughty or weird. Maybe there was a touch of Balenciaga during the reign of Nicolas Ghesquière, but that has long been a tendency of the design duo of Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. In this woolly New York season (and we are not talking about sweaters), their vision was as bold as it was brave.