NEW YORK (AFP) — Bling-encrusted ruby slippers in homage to "The Wizard of Oz" and a doff of the hat to the Romans with silk togas signed BCBG-Max Azria kicked off New York Fashion Week on Friday.
"I love this brand... it's so European," oozed Irishwoman Naomi McMahon as she watched models parade the catwalks in Azria's creations, one of the first spring collections to be presented at the fashion rendezvous.
Along with solid-color, bare-shoulder silk toga dresses, the Tunisian-born Azria offered frocks and gowns made with reams of draped satin, and skimpy shorts-sets, all set off by platform sandals or dizzyingly high two-tone heels.
The BCBG-Max Azria collection was one of a dozen presented to an avid public and press in tents in Bryant Park, in the heart of Manhattan, on the first day of the week-long extravaganza.
Taking opening-day pride of place, footwear had its very own exhibit at fashion week.
Dozens of designers, including Jimmy Choo, Sergio Rossi and Stuart Weizman, had been commissioned by the Swarovski crystal company to create a pair of shoes in tribute to the ruby slippers that Dorothy, played by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz," clicked together three times when reciting "There's no place like home."
The movie classic marks its 70th anniversary next year.
New York Fashion Week will maintain its high-energy pace of around a dozen catwalk presentations a day until September 12.
On Saturday, French sportswear brand Lacoste will show its spring 2009 collection, followed the next day by US fashion heavyweights Donna Karan and Diane von Furstenberg.
After days spent eyeing or pounding the catwalks in the park, fashionistas can retire to one of many soirees organized around New York.
On the eve of Fashion Week, Christie's, the auction house, held one such function in its sprawling ground floor viewing hall.
Guests, including rising top model Agyness Deyn, sipped champagne and sparkling water at an evening exhibit of vintage clothing by Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne, which Christie's London will put under the hammer next month.
Blocks away in the gallery-rich Chelsea neighborhood, a party thrown by Mini Cooper -- the trendy British car -- on a terrace overlooking the Hudson River was overflowing and unable to accommodate all its would-be guests.
"Don't worry, it's New York. Walk a few blocks and you will find another party," New York magazine advised those who were turned away.
"Be confident, dress appropriately, pair up with someone who knows someone and bring business cards. It can work," wrote the magazine, which has compiled a list of all the happenings in New York's five boroughs to fete the must-have shoes and flimsy frocks everyone will be clamoring for next spring.
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