New York Fashion Week has come to an end and as fashion journalists try to summarise the season’s trends, it becomes apparent that recurring motifs and silhouettes weren’t really the stories that grabbed you. Yes, we saw a lot of lot of jute, a lot of simple obi belts and a lot of slouchy ensembles in white but will those trends stick come Milan and Paris? Probably not. The true stand-out designers of the week were the ones who didn’t run with the trends and dared to carve out their own unique take. As for the big players of NYFW?  They were busy making the familiar feel fresh and they largely succeeded.

Shows of power

The biggies of New York (and there are many) always want to show that they’re the biggest. We found ourselves up on the 54th floor of 4 World Trade Centre for Jason Wu’s second show for Hugo Boss, which incidentally featured skyscraper motif dresses. Ralph Lauren sent the press schlepping to Central Park to witness a holographic projection across the lake at the launch of their Polo women’s line. The power players also don’t necessarily need to innovate every season to make a point; twisting the familiar in a convincing way  is often good enough.

Marc Jacobs closed the week with military-inspired cabochons and cargo pockets as the central motifs. Proenza Schouler are rumoured to be on the verge of going big with LVMH thought to want a minority stake in the brand designed by Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough. They reworked their own memories of American sportswear with innovations like fraying houndstooth fringes and cut-out argyle sweaters. It didn’t bristle with newness like some of their previous shows – but they are proving they could be a global fashion brand. 

Maverick style

We’ve seen a lot of theatre and performance elements at NYFW. One could argue these are tactics to hide the clothes. You can’t levy this charge at Thom Browne though. Sure, there were models in daisy suits on stilts in a fantasy garden party setting But it was the clothes that grabbed you with their craftsmanship and sheer beauty. Rainbow feathers fluttering from tweed suits, flowers trapped in a clear raincoat and beautiful butterfly embroidery on a houndstooth jacket: it was an indulgence in pure sartorial delight.  Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte had their models walk around glowing neon tubes nestled among turquoise crystals and shattered glass. The overall set-up was mesmerising but again, that didn’t stop you appreciating the passage of mermaid dresses shimmering with sequins, hand embroidery and netting.

Only for the hardcore

Hurrah for British duo Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley as they escaped the dreaded ‘second album syndrome’ with another clever collection for Marc by Marc Jacobs, following last season’s ninja/BMX-themed success. As we entered a darkened warehouse lit up by Tron-esque triangular neon tubes, and Chicago house music kicked off the soundtrack, we knew were in for a nostalgic ride. It was one that mined the best stylistic references from British 1990s rave culture and injected them into an energetic collection for customers who weren’t even born when rave was going strong. The hardcore lay in the latex leggings, pencil skirts and twisted bandeau tops, but these were sweetened with polka dots, Björk-inspired hair knots and pastel dipped slip-on boots.  According to one slogan T-shirt, it was a “New World System”. Bartley and Hillier definitely know how to make the niche look appealing as they bravely send a new kind of MBMJ girl out into the world.   

Susie Lau is a fashion journalist who blogs at stylebubble.co.uk. She is covering New York, London, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks for BBC Culture.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.