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NEW YORK — A sunny sense of optimism ran through the spring and summer 2020 collections presented here during New York Fashion Week, with labels providing the seeds of hope — in some cases literally — that brighter days for the country and our planet are just around the corner.

Although part of that feeling flowed naturally from the sunny hues and floral themes that traditionally characterize spring collections, there were a number of other trends, in silhouette, theme and color, that underscored the upbeat vibe. Here are a few worth watching, including an optimistic appreciation of American sportswear.

 

Relaxed Silhouettes

The strong-shouldered power suit that elbowed its way to center stage at the fall and winter 2019 runway shows is still very much in evidence (though, perhaps, softened ever so slightly), but the newness in the spring collections came by way of an abundance of super-relaxed, free-flowing and dialed-down options. Standouts here included Oscar de la Renta, where designers Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim catered to the caftan crowd with gauzy, V-necked, floor-grazing numbers trimmed in beaded fringe.

Also, there was Brandon Maxwell, who's known for his red-carpet-worthy gowns (including Lady Gaga's 2019 Met Gala scene-stealer) and who showed just how luxurious the classic American sportswear combo of a slouchy blazer or cardigan paired with blue jeans — ripped ones at that — can look in the right designer's hands. (On a side note, Maxwell surprised attendees by sending his new menswear offerings down the runway alongside the women's.)

Two of this fashion week's most memorable exercises in laid-back luxe came, perhaps not surprisingly, from L.A.-based labels. The first was Tom Ford, a designer whose runways are routinely filled with near-unobtainable glamour. This season he lured the fashion flock to the decidedly un-glamorous venue of an out-of-service subway station to watch models parade the platform in T-shirts, leather motorcycle jackets and slouchy blazers, sleeves rolled back or pushed up, and paired with unfussy ball skirts or athletic-style short shorts.

The second was Baja East, relaunched after a three-season New York Fashion Week hiatus with co-founder and creative director Scott Studenberg, using a New Year's road trip to Joshua Tree National Park as the jumping off point for a range of super-slouchy hoodies, slipdresses and athletic shorts in shades of sky blue and desert sunset red as well as billowy skirts and swim cover-ups printed with Joshua tree blooms.

 

Eye-Catching Belts

The wide, strappy or otherwise eye-catching belt turned out to be one of fashion week's unexpected accessory stars. At Oscar de la Renta, wide leather belts were cinched with raffia-trimmed buckles. At Gabriela Hearst, the buckles were slabs of polished geodes, some the size of drink coasters.

Although most labels seemed content to keep the leather belt exactly where it's always been — around the waist — that wasn't the case at Proenza Schouler. Perhaps as part of the "firm commitment to unfettered creative experimentation" designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez cited in their show notes, belts ranged harness-like from the waist up and over the shoulders, forming a leather V with buckles at the shoulder joints on some looks, dangled unbuckled over one hip on others and seemed to play-hide-and-seek with draped fabrics at the neck on still others.

Even Proenza's handbag got a healthy belting: Many were adorned with wide, black patent leather belts with chunky buckles that wouldn't have been out of place on a Santa suit.

 

A Peck of Polka Dots

Pattern-wise, the polka dot made an unusually strong showing in the spring and summer 2020 collections, sprinkled liberally through the collections of Tory Burch, Kate Spade New York and Carolina Herrera, to name just a few. A particularly deep bench of dots could be found in the Michael Kors Collection, in which the peppy pattern helped stoke the sense of "positivity and optimism" cited in the show notes by popping up on crepe de chine wrap dresses, puff-shoulder crop tops and asymmetric ruffle dresses in a collection that also included cheery fruit prints (cherries and lemons were spotted) and a boatload of nautical references (sailor caps and anchor motifs).

And, for those who can't wait six months to start poppin' dots, the see-now-buy-now Tommy X Zendaya collection that Tommy Hilfiger presented at the Apollo Theater in Harlem during New York Fashion Week has plenty of the polka pattern to go around.

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