c.2014 New York Times News Service

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — Who best gets the essence of a modern woman’s wardrobe: a male or female designer? That is one of the questions posed by the fall 2014 collections now showing in New York.

There is a saying that women create for themselves while men are out to please their mothers. But maybe things are not so simple.

Diane von Furstenberg is celebrating 40 years in business, the 40 years since she created her famous wrap dress, a product of those Studio 54 days. Having just opened an exhibition on “The Journey of a Dress” in Los Angeles, the designer was bound to focus on her signature invention.

The show invitation showcased two words: Bohemian Wrapsody. And, yes, it was meant to be spelled that way.

“I realized I was thinking about Russian ballerinas and their little cardigans,” the designer said backstage. She used the knitted wrap shape to control the vivid dress patterns, making a fresh variation on a familiar theme.

It seemed as if print was all around us, with white half-moons swirling across the show’s black floor. But only the 15 gilded dresses at the finale, coming out under a spray of gold confetti, looked particularly fancy.

The designer said she starts each collection by creating new prints, this time focusing on flowers and flat swirling patterns and with tunics and pants to add a sporty feeling. Glamour was reinforced by Valentine’s Day shoes with red heart patterns.

Von Furstenberg designs for herself, but she has many followers who understand the meld of the feminine and the powerful — an idea that has lasted for four decades.

Derek Lam tailors his clothes for strong women who want imaginative color and texture added to a streamlined wardrobe. Lam puts just enough thought and detail into his contemporary sportswear, where luxe is the key and color plays a powerful role. A lavender jacket with mustard skirt was an example of his subtle shading. And there was even a hint of sexuality, with skinny cutouts running down a dress front, showing a peek of flesh.

The designer’s real skill is taking American sportswear and giving it an extra dimension of texture or hue. A well-planned but straightforward wardrobe is a good way for a male designer to dress the modern woman.

Thakoon Panichgul said the inspiration for his fall collection was the American painter Cy Twombly, whose influence seems to have led to arty effects like the backdrops and carpets of fuchsia pink flowers on an electric blue ground.

Backstage, the designer also mentioned Patagonia as a reference, perhaps for the homespun knits and taut shoulder capes, cut off at the midriff. There were also surface treatments that gave a deep-pile effect to coats and jackets.

Presumably Panichgul sees the modern woman with a soft and hard side. The clothes were nice enough but nothing to define a powerful identity or to start a fashion evolution.