June Ambrose (c) attends BCBGMAXAZRIA fashion show
June Ambrose (c) attends BCBGMAXAZRIA fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2014 at The Theatre at Lincoln Center on February 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images For Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week)

New York City Fashion Week kicked off Thursday with a cool approach.

The corporate influences that have long been tightening around the affair have become the new status quo, as people with professional reasons for being in the tents now outnumber the stylish party crashers who used to make a carnival atmosphere.

That didn’t stop buzzing crowds from flocking to the tents at Lincoln Center in New York City to watch shows from America’s most coveted labels. I was lucky enough to snag one of the hottest tickets that day for the BCBGMaxAzria show.

Guard goes up at NYFW

Model and fashion stylist Ni’ma Ford of New York commented on the shift towards seriousness. We both had to get checked in twice to attend presentations, entering through a stark, black entry decked with chicly-dressed guards.

“Today’s the first day of Fashion Week, so it always kind of feels like the first day of school,” she laughed, standing in the center of the action. “The whole set up of Lincoln Center is different.” In previous (lax) years, the event was held in Bryant Park. “It’s really strict. I’m really interested to see how everyone flows with the new set-up.”

As I left the gates of entry, I was shocked to find that the inner lounge of NYFW was for official business only. In the past one could sneak in with a photocopy of a friend’s invite. Instead of gabbing over free booze with friends, elegant tables for reporting and blogging were front and center. Sponsor booths included the Papyrus card company, which was giving out free, pretty cards that attendees could mail anywhere. Title sponsor Mercedes-Benz had a huge display with a glistening automobile.

Other than the moderately priced food and drink — and free water — the inner sanctum of New York Fashion Week was less about frolic.

This definitely put me more in the mood to focus on fashion. I made my way past the VIP area that made sighting a celebrity walking through the crowd unlikely, and stood in the huge mass waiting to see the latest from lauded designer Max Azria, also the lead designer for Hervé Léger.

BCBGMaxAzria gives glamour

Famous fashion journalists such as Cathy Horyn and Hamish Bowles were whisked past me to what was surely their front row seat. Huge celebrity stylist and shoe designer June Ambrose also made an appearance. Members of the fashion intelligensia such as Man Repeller blogger Leandra Medine and Huffington Post style and beauty writer Julee Wilson were also in the “it” crowd. Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriwether also brought her beauty to bear.

As the rest of the audience slowly filed in to take their seats and standing places, I was shocked to see how large the theater was. The space easily held 1,000 people. All seemed transfixed as the first looks paraded down the simple runway.

The Fall/Winter 2014 aesthetic of BCBGMaxAzria was both prim and fun. Origami-like shapes draped the models’ bodies, as dresses with wide, long sleeves, low hems, and high necklines were rendered in hot, pastel colors alternating with geometric lines and large blocks of neutral tones in many variations. Maroon and leather were also prominent.

Monochromatic, digital prints were also used for dresses and pants looks. Everything was accessorized with fur used in a dizzying array of forms: muffs, coats, ponchos, collars, huge hoods, and more. The overall style was that of a sumptuous fembot ski bunny who is both modern and sexy.

While most of the looks were highly covering — which is suitable for fall — many pieces featured surprising cut-outs revealing the backs, bellies and chests of a few models. Towards the end of the collection, pieces mixed tulle and embroidered black embellishments, providing some softness through these evening ensembles.

Responses to BCBGMaxAzria 

One model of color was used for the show out of roughly two dozen, something that will likely be noted after Fall/Winter New York Fashion Week 2014 is over this week on Thursday. (Far more were used for the Hervé Léger by Max Azria show on Saturday.)

Fashion industry veteran Bethann Hardison has recently released a new statement to fashion governing bodies in her efforts to be a watchdog for runway diversity, in a follow-up effort to her groundbreaking campaign to raise awareness about the issue last September.

Jeremy Haynes, an African-American celebrity stylist and stylist for BCBGMaxAzria was “super-excited” about the show. He believes that this season’s BCBGMaxAzria collection is one that women of color everywhere will adore, and that this brand appreciates its clients of every hue.

“All of my clients that are here are women of color, and they love BCBGMaxAzria,” Haynes told theGrio. “I think that Max Azria and Lubov Azria [his wife and creative director] are so talented, and the things that they come up with are just beyond me. I think they are taking fashion to another level.”

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter @lexisb