When Antonio Berardi spent a few days in America recently, he realized he was being shoehorned into the red-carpet/cocktail/event-dressing niche. So he's used his pre-fall collection as an opportunity to bust out. "There's much more daywear," he said. "We're introducing form by using lots of menswear fabrics. Our challenge is to do something feminine with them." With Berardi's track record for body-con dressing, that would have been a breeze for him in the past, but he's keen to move on from that association. Yes, there was still a strong, athletic sense of the female form in a fitted orange tank dress with a purple stripe racing down its front, but Berardi had made everything more sculptural: little sculpted peplums, skirts that dipped at the back, subtle asymmetries.

A key fabric was a slubby silk/linen weave with a bouclé back. Berardi used its stretchiness vertically rather than horizontally. "It caresses the body in some areas, stands away in others," he explained. The fabric was cut into a cocoon cape that had a futuristic flair, kind of what Caprica's best dressed might wear. It was all in pursuit, Berardi went on, of something less obviously sexy than he's known for. That probably accounted for the distinct urban feel of a sober group in double-faced gray wool. The flaring shades of orange that were the collection's color accent made a dynamic counterpoint.