If cats have nine lives, leopard spots have 900, give or take. They've been going strong for so long now, you'd think designers would be hard-pressed to come up with new ways to interpret them. But that's what Sarah Burton was up to this season at McQ. First she digitized a print she picked up from an early Alexander McQueen show, and then she flocked it. On a cropped bomber, the red-and-black-on-white results looked graphic, almost three-dimensional. It should be an easy sell at the stores. Tartans, similarly, are as tried-and-true as they come. Burton kept hers fresh by pairing them with leopard spots—or better yet, by splicing two different patterns in one great-looking minidress.

Elsewhere, she tweaked street-smart basics like biker jackets, parkas, and peacoats, giving them a bit of polish without sacrificing any edge. One biker came with a tartan lining, another's was baby pink. A red and black color-blocked peacoat looked particularly sharp. Its patchwork motif carried over into denim. Hip-slung and holey, Burton's boyfriend jeans signaled a new, more relaxed attitude for McQ. It's one that makes good sense for this little sister brand.