In her dreams, Alice Temperley would ideally summer in the South of France and winter in St. Petersburg, the city where, seven years ago, she staged a show in Catherine the Great's palace. The venue had such an effect on her that its details have percolated until now. They're the romantic inspiration for her Pre-Fall collection (with the promise that there'll be plenty more of Mother Russia when the Fall line debuts in a few months). Of course, romance has always been Temperley's calling card, but this season there is a new spirit afoot: a new CEO, new Italian manufacturers, new fabric suppliers and "a change in the way we work," said the designer.

In the past, it's been Temperley's evening dresses that have garnered most attention. Pre-Fall's news was a clear emphasis on daywear, with an edge of opulence in the fabrics and colors. The stained-glass windows of Catherine's palace were engineered by those artful Italian craftspeople into striking jacquards. The palace's wrought ironwork was translated into decorative scrolling. But all the surface detail was counterpointed by silhouettes that were simpler, sexier, leaner than before. When evening came, it had less of the Bohemian Alice, less of the Wonderland Alice, and more of the monochrome glamour of a bolero-topped strapless gown or a silver-scrolled column, finished off in a cloud of black marabou. Another dream of Temperley's: the insouciant chic of Loulou de la Falaise.