The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Role models paint the runway red

New York, Feb. 3 (AP): New York Fashion Week opened yesterday amid an international debate about too-thin models, yet the first major runway show of the event featured women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colours.

And the crowd loved it.

That first show on the catwalk at Bryant Park was the Heart Truth show, an annual event in which celebrities wear red dresses created for them by famous designers. Heart Truth is part of the Red Dress project, a federal initiative spearheaded by First Lady Laura Bush, to raise awareness about heart disease.

It’s not a fashion show by traditional standards, but the standing ovation that tennis great Billie Jean King received might be a sign that fashion industry insiders are more willing to accept women who exceed the size 0s that have become the standard.

The Heart Truth show was attended by Bush, whowore a crimson Bill Blass skirt suit. She was accompanied by Blass designer Michael Vollbracht and Carolina Herrera.

After the Heart Truth show came the first real preview of the fall styles that draw editors, retail buyers and stylists to Fashion Week. The showings included BCBG Max Azria, John Bartlett and Perry Ellis. Shows continue through February 9, with designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs and Vera Wang on the schedule.

Most audience members had their eyes on the celebrity models, including Kelly Ripa, Lauren Hutton and Angela Bassett, but there was some real fashion on the runway, too.

One-shoulder goddess gowns were worn by Kim Cattrall for Carolina Herrera and Rachael Ray for Donna Karan, while Marlee Matlin wore a sweetheart-neck strapless gown by Douglas Hannant. Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera’s Gustavo Cadile dress paid homage to Rivera’s Puerto Rican roots with a fiery red colour, tiered dance skirt and ruffled bolero jacket.

Paula Zahn’s V-neck draped gown by Bill Blass flowed beautifully behind her and Lauren Hutton was the perfect model for Narciso Rodriguez’s architectural gown with sheer short sleeves.

Kelly Ripa wore her Diane von Furstenberg beaded wrap dress well; race-car driver Danica Patrick looked like a modelling pro in her loose short-sleeve gown by Jovovich-Hawk that featured a heart embroidery at the centre of its empire waist.

But the audience favourite seemed to be tennis star King, whose outfit was designed by Gustavo Cadile. She shunned the high heels that most of the other celebrities wore in favour of Adidas sneakers — accented with red, of course.

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