NEW YORK (AP) _ Physics, synergetics and geometry are the inspirations for Gabriele Knecht's architectural but softly structured clothing.

They are uncommon influences for a fashion designer, but not surprising from a person who dedicated 10 years to developing her now-patented sleeve and who learned from her father, a physicist.

''I always had a feeling there was more to clothes,'' the German-born Ms. Knecht said during a private preview of her fall and winter collection inside her Manhattan workshop last week.

Ms. Knecht, 47, said she began to experiment with the structure of clothing while working as a children's and knitwear designer in the early 1970s.

Her sleeve - which is like a softly sculpted petal that folds slightly forward instead of straight out - ''would allow an orchestra conductor to raise his arms without his jacket getting all bunched up around the neck,'' she says.

After researching the idea of a diagonally-set sleeve for 10 years and finally arriving at the correct formula, she applied for a patent in 1982.

Only then did Ms. Knecht start designing her own line.

The time and energy spent on the project proved worthwhile since Saks brought the exclusive rights to her first collection.

And last year, Ms. Knecht was chosen from among 250 new designers as the recepient of the first More fashion award. It was an honor made special because she was judged and chosen by stylists including Bill Blass, Willi Smith and Caroline Herrera.

The award has brought her both recognition and customers. Her clothes are now also available at Macy's department stores around the country.

Ms. Knecht's fall collection offers soft pieces in wool doubleknit and wool crepe with some organza tops and velvet skirts for evening.

The outfits form monochromatic silhouettes in ivory, gunmetal gray, rose, black, or burnished gold and are worn with matching pantyhose, designed by Ms. Knecht for Burlington.

A gray wool doubleknit dress is simply structured, but like the rest of the collection it has intricate and exact detailing. A wide sash that ties in the back, also drapes into soft gathers in front. Rounded shoulders give the illusion of fullness without using bulky shoulder pads.

Her patterns are based on tiny squares which fit together in infinite combinations.

An ''amoeba shape'' red dress has a peplum with a curved side flange, that is actually cut from the same piece of fabric as the sleeves.

A ''double helix'' dress is so called because the material wraps diagonally from front to back, fitting together ''like a DNA model,'' the designer explains.

For daytime, Ms. Knecht offers a gray, hooded tunic with a criss-cross belt worn over matching pants in the same doubleknit material. An ivory, ribbed, cowlneck dress with wooden shoulder buttons - a different accent used often by the desginer - was especially pretty.

Evening clothes, new to the Knecht collection, are understated.

A gray velvet jumper with a criss-crossed back and a single pleat in the front and back is worn with a gray organza blouse.

A set of cropped, checked satin blouses with tiny bow accents are the only patterned pieces in the collection. These are shown with long, slightly flared, velvet skirts.

Ms. Knecht says when trying a new design, ''I feel the way my body feels when it moves, the way fabric touches my body.''

The result is comfortable, loose clothing that sports wonderful details like gathers, belts, and big shoulders that highlight body curves.

Her styling is unique because rather than stitching material together, she likes to explore ways fabric can be shaped and folded.

''I've learned to turn somersaults with my mind,'' Ms. Knecht said, explaining how she shapes the fabric in her mind, turning corners, going upside down and following diagonals from front to back.

The designer plans to publish a book explaining her pattern techniques and would like to further expand her line to include men's, children and sportswear.

But most of all, she wants to continue to explore. ''There's so much that we don't know,'' she said.