For Donna Karan, pre-fall means back to work. The tribal mood of Spring was out and menswear-influenced separates were in. The color palette—black, navy, charcoal, and ivory—said business, too, but wide belts at the waist (definitely the season's hot zone so far), along with high slits on skirts and dresses, hinted at after-hours pleasures.

It's rare to see pants chez Karan, but they made cameos here; cropped and cuffed styles came paired with long silk tunics or wool jackets with strong shoulders for day. As an alternative to pantsuits, she showed coat-dresses both with and without sleeves.

Evening is where things heated up. A scubalike fabric that the house is calling duchesse satin jersey gave a sculptural quality to a white jacket worn over a bustier-top jumpsuit, and a big black bow made from the stuff added drama to a sleeveless ivory top and a narrow, inky blue wrap skirt. For the most part, Karan kept the slinky jersey dresses she's known for in the back. Adding tailored elements to gowns was the big idea here, big being the operative word. A black and white strapless number had the sort of gravitas a grande dame like Meryl Streep (a.k.a. the Iron Lady) could use to her advantage come Oscar season.