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Sophie Theallet Spring 2013 (left) was inspired by dragonflies. Thom Browne gives a nod to'20s artist-choreographer Oskar Schlemmer. Jeremy Scott channeled the Arab Spring.
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BY JOCELYN NOVECK
AP National Writer
NEW YORK--The luna moth. Oscar Wilde. Eighteenth-century Japanese scrolls. An obscure Bauhaus artist. Antique porcelain. Quick, what do these things have in common?
Don't know? Try this: The Duchess of Windsor. The Arab Spring. The Beatles' 1960s encounter with the Maharishi. "A Midsummer Night's Dream"--not the play, silly, the 1935 movie. The dragonfly.
Give up? Each of these things was a declared "inspiration," or theme, for designers as they plied their wares at New York Fashion Week this month.
Why do designers even need such a thing, the uninitiated may ask? Well, many say it helps them organize their thoughts as they travel through the creative process. "It's the kernel that makes the popcorn grow," says Jeremy Scott, whose typically outrageous designs attempted to channel the Arab Spring this year, with some Harlem added in.
But there's also the pesky issue of having a good answer ready backstage, when you get that inevitable question as the cameras flash and the tape rolls: "What inspired you?" And you can't just say, "I wanted to make pretty clothes."
Which is a bit frustrating to designer Nanette Lepore. "Actually, sometimes it annoys me that everyone wants a theme!" she says. "I mean, it really does help when I have a strong one to work with. But often, what you have is just a few notions."
A number of over-arching mini-themes emerged this year. For example: Insects.
As in, the luna moth, which lives for only about a week. Indian-born designer Bibhu Mohapatra saw one, and it inspired his spring collection. "The luna moth is like a woman--she is constantly evolving," he said.
For Sophie Theallet, another rising designer who has dressed Michelle Obama, it was another insect who stirred her creative juices: the dragonfly. "It's viewed differently by different cultures, sometimes as evil, sometimes spiritual," she said. "I wanted to show how the woman I am dressing can be anything at any time."
Speaking of time, some designers dig way back into it for their themes. Thom Browne's show--an elaborate performance, really--was an homage to 1920s artist and choreographer Oskar Schlemmer.