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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Polished sporty styles and neon citrus colors emerged as strong trends at New York Fashion Week, which ends on Thursday, for spring/summer 2012 as consumers look for more versatile fashion.
Dubbed urban sport and athletic chic, the designs featured fabrics such as mesh, neoprene and parachute silk and relaxed yet refined fashion to fit with more casual and active lifestyles, and suit several occasions.
Almost 100 designers have been showing collections for spring/summer 2012 to retail buyers, media and celebrities during New York Fashion Week, with dozens more showing at other venues around the city to coincide with the semi-annual event.
"Urban sport ... is something that women can easily incorporate into their wardrobes and wear not only on the street but in the office as well," said Saks Fifth Avenue senior fashion director Colleen Sherin.
"One of the biggest trends is it's about color, color, color. Really bright energetic colors from citrus brights to pops of neon brights," she said. "It's something that women will really embrace because we see they love to wear color."
Designers including Alexander Wang, Nicholas K, Rebecca Taylor and Rag & Bone featured anoraks, and Rebecca Minkoff, Yigal Azrouel, Tibi, and Charlotte Ronson were among the labels to show relaxed trousers, while the use of bright colors was widespread, with yellow emerging as a favorite.
"As world events get increasingly complicated, clothing that is streamlined, unfussy and headache-free becomes more and more desirable," said Susan Cernek, Glamour magazine's fashion development director.
"There also seems to be quite a number of asymmetrical and handkerchief hemlines. No doubt George Taylor would have a good time with that one," Cernek said, referring to the economist who suggested in the 1920s that hemlines rise when the economy is good and drop when it is bad.
With the U.S. economy faltering as consumer confidence wallows at a two-year low and retail sales growth stalled in August, experts said designers were thinking more carefully about who wears their clothes.
"They really are thinking in a very intelligent way about the woman who's walking in at retail and paying the prices that they're asking for their collection," said Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing. "Ultimately an updated classic and a flattering silhouette is what the customer wants."
People are still buying designer labels with high-end department stores posting the largest gains in sales.
Luxury department store Neiman Marcus, which also owns Bergdorf Goodman, reported a 17 percent increase in quarterly operating profit on Tuesday as high-end shoppers' growing willingness to pay full price for designer dresses, shoes and handbags sent sales soaring.
Downing said that while many designers drew on sports influences, fashion for the warmer months next year kept a ladylike chic. "There's this very dressed up spirit throughout," he said.
Peplum waists -- a flared ruffle attached to the waist of dresses, jackets and tops -- were popular, shown by designers including Karen Walker, Vera Wang, Rodarte and Badgley Mischka and many collections featured blazers.
Fashion Week in New York will be followed by events in London, Paris and Milan.
Editing by Vicki Allen