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(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Img)
By Christopher Muther
Globe Staff / September 13, 2010

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NEW YORK — Not only are the surroundings new at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week — the tents have moved uptown to Lincoln Center — but over the weekend, designers showed that they’re looking at a fresh start as well. The spring/summer 2011 collections so far are a mix of new elegance, hippie chic, and experimentation with inventive materials. Here are a few of the highlights.

Alexander Wang
The celebrated club kid of New York downtown chic went in a radical direction for his spring 2011 collection. Gone were the tough black ensembles of previous seasons. In their place was a series of loose-fitting coveralls — all in white — which felt like a deep, cleansing breath after a night of debauchery. Wang, tinkering with conventional ideas of clothing construction, introduced terra cotta trench coats with no sleeves and back straps and jackets of metallic shimmer with gashes running in the back. It was an equally thrilling and baffling show of what happens when you throw out the old definitions and start over again.

Cynthia Rowley
Rowley showed a fondness for the simplicity of the ’60s in a collection that included a lovely, milky-white leather shift dress, a parade of pale, sea-foam colors, and, more importantly, a series of perforated dresses that recalled Pierre Cardin’s love of cut-out geometric shapes. She walked a fine line between sexy and playful with the circular and square cut-outs in her frocks, but the ensembles never veered into vulgar territory. She also showed cabochon dresses (a sartorial way of saying embellished with polished stones) that still managed to appear light, despite being dotted with gems in elaborate patterns.

Prabal Gurung
Gurung’s stunning, sophisticated, and exquisitely constructed spring 2011 collection should help the young designer’s star continue its swift rise. As fashion luminaries Rachel Zoe and Vogue’s Hamish Bowles looked on, Gurung launched his show with a series of 1980s-inspired sweater dresses, but it was his experimentation with materials that showed his true talents. He showed a series of fringed dresses that looked like 1920s flapper meets “Mad Max,’’ and in the middle of these elaborate showstoppers threw in a seemingly simple saffron gown that acted as a perfect palette cleanser.

Charlotte Ronson
Sister Samantha Ronson played songs by Paul Simon and the Doobie Brothers as the celebrity-studded audience was seated, and it quickly became apparent why. Charlotte Ronson dove into the 1990s by way of the 1970s, mixing Holly Hobbie floral prints with grungy plaids. Skirts went well below the knee, and granny booties were styled with slouchy socks. The crowd seemed more than ready for the nostalgia trip, with former slackers singing along to the show-closing song of “Stay.’’ As immediately wearable as many of these pieces are, the collection as a whole lacked a cohesiveness that not even the soundtrack could help to restore.

Z Spoke by Zac Posen
The diminutive designer’s lower-price line received a star-studded debut with an audience that included Claire Danes, Carmen Electra, and Kimora Lee Simmons. The pop culture-inspired pieces, targeted to customers with slightly emptier purses, were bright and flouncy, with strong punches of tangerine and strawberry and featuring whimsical, anthropomorphic smiling fruit along with denim pieces that would look completely at home on Newbury Street. It is easy to see that Posen will have a rabid following for these clothes.

Jill Stuart
After several wandering seasons of hit-and-miss (but mostly miss) collections, Stuart jumped back to basics with a series of charming silhouette prints and men’s-inspired evening looks. But it was pretty, young, and prim neutral party dresses that will please fans, such as the Kardashian sisters, who attended the show.

Christopher Muther can be reached at muther@globe.com.