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Brooklyn Is the Future of New York Fashion

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Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images

Models wear designs by Alexander Wang during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014 shows February 8, 2014 in New York City.

Eric Wilson is InStyle’s Fashion News Director. Sit front row at Fashion Week with him by following him on Twitter (@EricWilsonSays) and Instagram.

Around 9 p.m. Saturday, the last stragglers from Manhattan were making their way into a vast warehouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, having arrived by water taxi, by private car or by foot, some of them looking worse for the wear, probably wondering if it was worth the hike. It was an unusual sight, if only because it was happening in Brooklyn, at Alexander Wang’s runway show (pictured), in a setting the designer said he chose because it reflected the mood of his collection.

The first few days of Fashion Week for fall 2014 have included some exceptional collections from New York’s hot star designers, Wang included, but most of them were shown, as usual, in Manhattan. If Wang’s collection was any indication, then Brooklyn reflects the future, since the clothes he showed had a great sense of space-age cleanliness, including short gray jackets of a kicky mod proportion, with monochromatic utility pockets placed all over them. (The handbags matched, with neat attachments for keys, compacts, wallets, water bottles and other assorted, unimaginable gadgets.) The fabric treatments were particularly innovative as well, on tunics and skirts with molded shapes, sweatshirts that looked as if they were made of plastic blocks, or a shearling jacket that was tattered and torn at the edges.

At the end of the show, several models stood on a part of the circular runway that rotated as other models walked around them, spinning faster and faster, like a metaphor for the collections.

In the days leading up to the shows, in fact, there had been a lot of worry about designers moving their runways all over the city, following some key departures from Lincoln Center (Diane von Furstenberg and Michael Kors among them), and just how difficult it would be to get around. Especially if it snows.

But the power of the shows in New York has been more on display than ever, if you are judging merely by the number of photographers who materialize outside each venue just in time to document everyone’s outfits, many of which truly are astounding. Anya Ziourova, a Russian editor, was standing outside a post office on Saturday afternoon dressed in clashing neons, a human highlighter set against the dirty banks of ice, for the Prabal Gurung show. Where else could you wear that? In SoHo at Jason Wu, New York City police officers were practically apoplectic as they tried – with little success – to encourage people, instead of taking pictures, to remain on the sidewalks. “This is how people get killed,” a cop barked.

Fashion people will not be deterred. We’ll go anywhere, stand in any line, tolerate traffic jams and people who Instagram on their phones while on a crowded stairwell, rather than feel like we missed something. For a small show on Wednesday evening for the designer Rachel Comey, several of us had already visited Brooklyn, a remote section of Red Hook, actually. Comey recognizes the value of creating not just a show but an experience, and so crafted an intimate dinner party, where the clothes were shown between courses and her celebrity friends provided the scene. Her look for fall was really of two minds – a wildly fun leopard print coat and cartoon-print dresses for fun, and then a more sober offering of a sleeveless coat and extremely slouchy suits.

“I’m a Belieber!” hooted Parker Posey, who later led a dance-off with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Gaby Hoffmann.

The big shows at Lincoln Center, back in Manhattan, meanwhile, have been given a makeover, a sprucing up if you will, which means that instead of being overfilled with lots of commercials for sponsor brands, basically the interiors are all redone in fashion’s favorite color: black. How dark is it? At Richard Chai’s show on Thursday, it took several minutes for the rapper Dominic Lord to recognize anyone he knew. “One thing I do know,” he said. “I definitely need glasses.”

The good news: The fashion has been crystal clear. While it’s too soon to talk trends, a lot of looks have potential, like the camel coats at Chai, Comey, Lacoste, and a nice wrap at Creatures of the Wind. Joseph Altuzarra based an entire collection on double-face wrap coats that looked spectacular, with insets of pop pink and orange. There is also a high likelihood of a red winter to come, based on examples from the collections of Prabal Gurung, Helmut Lang, Ruffian and — let’s not forget — Coach, which had a strong debut of sporty shearlings from designer Stuart Vevers.

New York’s young guard is growing more sophisticated in its approach, notably with Wu’s lavishly polished suits and furs, and some fascinating textiles from Peter Som, whose suits and dresses were made of a jacquard that combined a mélange of animal prints and gray tweed. And another bright spot was the powerhouse show from Gurung that focused on collage-like jackets and dresses made of multiple knotted or wrapped-up fabrics (knits, draped silk and techno prints), in colors evocative of his native Nepal.

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