c.2015 New York Times News Service

c.2015 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — Three days into New York Fashion Week, and it was starting to feel as if we had taken a wrong turn on the way to the catwalks and ended up on the basketball court at Madison Square Garden instead. After all, the biggest news was coming not from sportswear, that most American of style concepts, but sports.

From Kanye West’s collection/performance for Adidas to the NBA All-Star All-Style fashion show with James Harden (of the Houston Rockets) and Chandler Parsons (of the Dallas Mavericks) modeling alongside names like Chanel Iman; Carmelo Anthony’s fashion-meets-tech-meets-sport-trend-setting “experience” with Intel; and Russell Westbrook’s “creative direction” of True Religion’s latest campaign, it was all — not even athleisurewear — but athletes, all the time. Forget designers. Who needs ‘em?

Well, we do. Because at their best, they show us not just who we think we should be, but rather who we didn’t know we could be.

So it was a relief to finally see someone take the ball and run with it.

Or so, in any case, did Alexander Wang. Wang has arguably done more than any other designer to popularize the idea that athletic wear could — and should — translate to the catwalk.

His last collection was inspired by sneakers, and he recently had a runaway success (pun intended) collaborating with H&M on a line of sport-to-street clothing. So a reviewer could be forgiven for anticipating a season of intarsia leggings and sweatshirts.

Instead, out came sharply tailored culottes. Also shearling bathrobe coats and silk-satin pajama suits; leather T-shirts and flak vests; bias-cut skirts that swirled around the calves and quilted miniskirts — almost all of it black (save a studded fisherman’s sweater or two and some silver bombers) and almost all of it edged or otherwise trimmed in gleaming ball bearings, strung out along seams and hemlines and delineating curves like so many heavy metal pearls.

Subtract the head-stomper combat boots (and yes, I know they will be a must-have for someone) and the stringy hairstyling; line the sheer chain-mail skirts, as supple and see-through as latex; and what was left had an urbanity and strength that looked relevant. And it suggests Wang’s ambitions lie in a different league.

This is literally, if not aesthetically, true, too, in the case of Public School, who continued their move from menswear into womenswear with a typical mélange of shearling, shirtdresses, plaid and pleats, all in an elongated silhouette, a truncated palette and a haute-ish grunge ethos.

And it is true for Victoria Beckham, who has been edging her minimal, close-to-the-body aesthetic into new directions of late, this season focusing on a bias-swirl around the body. Seams twisted from waist to knees, skewing below-the-knee skirts slightly off-center; knits slouched down one side; and nubby coats were molded to nip the waist, exaggerate the hips (this worked better than it sounds, especially in trapeze-like car coats) and swaddle the shoulders.

Although some of the piecework — an extra, what to call it: structure? on the side; half-belts at the hip — was conceptual overkill, a slipdress of broad diagonal black-and-white stripes and A-line skirts puzzled together from silken bow-shaped cutouts and paired with sleeveless corduroy tops were cocktail with an actual twist.

By contrast, and polished as they were, Derek Lam’s 1970s-toned brown and navy and orange and rust and turquoise flared trouser suits, suede tunics and pajama dressing seemed like something of a rerun, and even the addition of big buttons, big collars and bigger cuffs on the pants didn’t change the score.

(Apologies for the protracted metaphor, but you use what you’ve got. Or, as Joan Didion, fashion’s current muse, might say, play it as it lays.)

It was at Altuzarra, however, that a designer really raised the game.

Inspired by a combination of “18th century dandies” and Truman Capote’s swans (think Babe Paley, Slim Keith), Joseph Altuzarra combined giant fox-fur collars — shaping up to be something of a trend — and houndstooth coats; lavish pastel chubbies and skinny flannel trousers; and leather skirt suits complete with a flounce at the knee and sliced wide to mid-thigh on one side. A series of chiffon evening dresses threaded with gold and silver embroidery apparently referenced Tibetan patterns, although there was nothing om-ish about them.

The clothes were decorative and a little decadent, knowingly undermining their own propriety through fabric and form. They dared you to reach out and touch, and suggested you may just get a slap on the hand if you tried.

In other words, they telegraphed the ego and the id in self-contained balance. Down dog.