It's rare for a debut to be as slick and sophisticated as that of Phi, a sportswear company that showed its first collection in a mammoth, sun-drenched Chelsea industrial space on the last afternoon of Fashion Week. But Phi (pronounced "fee") is funded by Susan Dell, the very deep-pocketed wife of billionaire computer entrepreneur Michael Dell, so production values were in the money-is-no-object realm (up there, where Guido Palau is your go-to hair guy).
The collection's creative director is Tim Gardner, a former Calvin Klein-Jil Sander designer, and his loyalty to that school of luxe minimalism came through in the limited palette of black, wine, cream, and brown, and in the attention he lavished on utilitarian pieces like beautifully cut motorcycle jackets in leather or tweed, smart trenches, elegant long coats, and safari jackets. He played delicate off rough with fluttery dresses made from raw-edged silks worn with stompin' high-heeled motorcycle boots and detailed his pieces with silver D-rings and bits of sheer fabric. Bulky black knits got a bit heavy with walls of hanging fringe, though. Phi may be funded by a wealthy woman, but it's clearly no vanity project; this was a complete, thought-out collection filled with great pieces to make its front rowincluding the professionally glamorous Diane Sawyervery happy.