c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — New York defines, and redefines, what young urban luxury is. It does this better than Paris or London, and in spite of the tacky aura of the show space at Lincoln Center.

The city holds the top spot because it has a large sophisticated audience, a vital party scene and an evolving group of fashion mavens, like the Olsen sisters. Even the old guard has come down from Park Avenue, as it were.

Ralph Rucci has never been old guard, but it’s interesting to see how he has jettisoned some of his most cherished ideas. The biggest change in his fashion is that you can see the body. That may sound funny, but in the past you almost needed a chisel to break through the double-face cashmere, not to mention the Balenciaga-like rectitude.

No more. He has streamlined everything, and lost almost nothing. You miss the feathery nonsense that he could pull off (and may yet still), but in coming down to earth, Rucci has given himself more room to connect with what is contemporary.

He is also exploiting a void in the market, for sleek, modern-looking clothes that have just a tingle of luxury. In his case, it was crystal rings that appeared on the fingers of every model. Actually, the “rings” were just adhesive strips covered with sequins and stones, but they were an effective accent to the mostly neutral palette, with spikes of bronze and silver.

It was a pleasure to see him apply the same restraint to a jersey harness dress as to a pale pink suit with a matching draped blouse and a slit skirt. In proportion, lightness and ease, he redefines the suit.

Another collection that bears a personal stamp and is worth keeping in mind next spring is Thakoon Panichgul’s. It’s clear from his minimalist, carefully detailed clothes that he recognizes that there has been a paradigm shift in luxury. It’s not fussy stuff anymore, and it is not an endless fabric experiment with bonding and other techniques that add bulk (and price).

Panichgul’s collection was subtle and inspiring, from the way he used lace in a soft black jumpsuit with a camisole-style top, to a pair of semi-constructed tops in cotton with low V-backs. These shirts were terrific, simply done, in light blue or white, with a furrow of crystals down the front. They were the essence of throwaway chic, designed by someone who knew precisely what he wanted, and not a lick more.

Diane von Furstenberg chose a venerable safari theme: zebra-striped jersey, a flirty skirt and bra top in a cork print, some nice dresses in dark denim mixed with black lace. But it was an aimless jaunt.

Derek Lam’s show seemed distinctively devoid of a statement, though in a plain, belted white dress with caped shoulders and a loosefitting black evening dress, one could detect a sober Grès influence. Raffia fringe appeared at the bib of an otherwise unadorned cream dress, with deep pockets, and there were belted numbers in dark blue denim. Even in a modest collection, Lam brings something strongly feminine to life.

Carolina Herrera plugged a lot of diversity into her excellent show on Monday. The layered optical prints on sheer fabrics were a bit of a distraction because she had so many solid examples of new fashion: an ivory suede shift, a clay-red suede top with off-white pajama pants, and a number of beautiful blouses. And I admired the coolness of a broken suit, its ivory jacket in silk and its full skirt in viscose with an organza layer.

The Row, by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, was a handsome dip into the Orient, with slim, below-the-knee skirts and dresses in navy, rust or cream crinkled georgette, naïve little tops with embroidery, and some chunky coats that were fascinating but better for a cold season. They’ve added a new, somewhat oversize sling bag. The collection was in the Olsens’ self-image, but their journey continues to advance.