Donna Karan is at a stage in her career where she knows what her customers want. For Pre-Fall 2014, that's easy, neutral separates that go from the office to dinner. Here were our takeaways:
For Karan, Pre-Fall is all about the blazer. A blazer isn't just good for the office, it's also suitable outwear for early fall temperatures. Karan showed nine: Oversized, deep-cut, textured, in suede; some with collars, others without; some sharply tailored, others loosely draped. My favorite came with an oversized collar in white (top, second from right).
A white oxford blouse goes with, yes, everything. If you were to follow Donna Karan's dressing template for Pre-Fall, you could get a lot of mileage from a simple white oxford. The blouses, some in cotton and others in chiffon, appeared in more than a quarter of the looks, worn half-buttoned with mid-calf pleated and laser-cut pencil skirts, or -- in one of my favorite looks -- with a simple black cutaway blazer and low-waisted wool trousers, cut above the ankle (see top, center).
Obscure painterly references. There were vague references to painting, but no specific painter. The front of one white dress looked as if it had been collaged on. Two silk dresses and a skirt featured jagged paint strokes in burnt sienna and zinc oxide, the latter of which paired well with a suede jacket of the same color (top, second to left); and one tan coat -- a standout in the collection -- looked as if it had been scraped with a palette knife (top left). A few of the models wore berets. We weren't entirely sure what to make of it.
A new skirt length. Karan showed a new skirt length for Pre-Fall, which cut mid-calf. She paired these with long socks that hit above the ankle. It looked very chic, and we're expecting to see more of it in the Fall 2014 collection.
Expensive, but not expensive-looking. My least favorite look of the group was the opening look: a white, long-sleeve oxford with a semi-sheer, pleated black skirt, worn on the hips. There wasn't anything wrong with the silhouette, per se -- as I said, I very much liked the longer, mid-calf length of the skirts in the collection -- but it looked inexpensive on a hanger. Ditto the black silk dresses and skirts printed with painterly stripes, which lacked the elegance of the flowing, delicately pleated dresses Karan showed for Spring. At a department store, I might sooner identify these as discounted Theory than Donna Karan.
The same could not be said, thankfully, of the blazers and the cashmere, the latter of which always looks luxe when it comes from Karan. Overall, it was a very practical, wearable collection. Click through the slideshow below to see it in full.