NEW YORK - US design icons Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors brought New York Fashion Week to a close Wednesday as the spring/summer 2018 season flits to Europe and some pondered the health of fashion in the US financial capital.
Jacobs, considered by many the creme-de-la-creme of avant garde American fashion and feted for his showmanship, for a second season running served up a show in near silence on a catwalk stripped of adornment.
His audience sat on utilitarian brown fold-out chairs laid out in an enormous rectangle around the outer perimeter of an otherwise barren space at the Park Avenue Armory, lit only by white spotlights.
The only sound that could be heard was the clunk of models stalking over wooden floorboards until the lush tones of an Italian operatic aria suddenly accompanied the girls on their final parade.
Rising model, 16-year-old Kaia Gerber -- daughter of Cindy Crawford and the face of Jacobs' perfume Daisy -- eclipsed the more established Bella and Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner to close the show in a canary yellow beaded evening gown, black gloves and black turban.
His was a conservative if fantastical vision of spring 2018, with barely an ounce of flesh in sight -- just a shoulder here, or an arm there. His models all covered their hair with silk turbans that mimicked those of a mid-20th century London cleaning lady, but made stylish by elegant women from the West Indies or conservative Muslims.
His models wore oversized jackets, long gloves and harem pants. A halter-neck pink evening gown was paired with matching pants. Accessories were enormous bags -- one made to look like a folded suit carrier -- fanny packs on the waist with pom-pom style shrugs.
His shoes were almost uniformly flat -- the most modest of heels on pastel-colored leather boots, Japanese-style house shoes worn with ankle black nylons, or extravagantly embellished rubber soled sandals.
The entire collection made sportswear look decadent and exotic -- in orange, pink, green and 1970s-style bold psychedelic silk prints, large checked outwear and enormous rainy-anorak style hooded coats.
The 54-year-old designer brought forward the show from his customary Thursday slot to accommodate the pared-down schedule this season, having been last month forced to deny rumors that it was his final show in New York or that he might be leaving a company.
Jacobs told Women's Wear Daily there was "no truth" to the speculation, calling the rumors "upsetting and stressful" to staff.
The Business of Fashion website reported in July that "sources close to the brand" said Jacobs may step back from his day-to-day design role or leave the business entirely.
In an increasingly challenging marketplace, particularly for retail sales at bricks and mortar stores, parent company LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton confirmed in July that Eric Marechalle, lately of Kenzo, would take over as chief executive officer from Sebastian Suhl.
The Business of Fashion reported that the changes at Marc Jacobs had hit morale in the wider New York fashion industry, where many deeply revere both Jacobs and his eponymous label.
A clutch of top-flight US talent, including Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra and Thom Browne turned their backs on New York this season in favor of what is considered greater sophistication in Paris.
Earlier Wednesday, Michael Kors kicked off the final day by inviting A-list actresses Nicole Kidman and Catherine Zeta-Jones to sit front row, and watch plus-size models powering down the catwalk.
An icon of American womenswear, Kors is said to have finally hit the $1 billion mark in February after flirting with billionaire status since his company of the same name went public in December 2011.
He said his collection was all about ease and the relaxed attitude of sarongs, kimonos and pajamas juxtaposed with oversized menswear tailoring.
US singer Sara Bareilles performed hits such as "(You Make me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Brave" -- the latter a mainstay of Hillary Clinton's 2016 thwarted campaign playlist -- in a SoHo loft.
"Manhattan to Malibu... Beverly Hills to Bora Bora," said Kors, summing up the collection that put the flip flop on the catwalk.
It was the second consecutive time the designer had put a curve model in his runway show, still a relative rarity for the most prominent houses despite the average American women measuring a size 14-16.