Ruffo Research is a kind of nursery project for new fashion talent. Each year, an independent design company is selected to do two guest collections, enjoying the benefits of Ruffo's extraordinary expertise in producing leather. This fall is the second and final season for Alexandre Matthieu, the French partnership of Alexandre Morgado and Matthieu Bureau.

The design duo's signature is a young Parisian version of feminine street-chic, a vision they expressed via seamed corset tops and dresses shown over sweatshirts, and coats and pants decorated with geometric-patterned overstitching. The opportunity to experiment with Ruffo's leather techniques produced distressed chestnut leather jackets, a long cable-stitch cardigan knitted from leather yarn, and what looked like white-painted crackled surfaces on bombers decorated with sliced fringing. The standouts were the gold leather biker coat and satchels, one of which was also gold, reminiscent of army surplus bags.

Alexandre Matthieu's relatively quiet shows came after a succession of edgier Ruffo guest designers: Véronique Branquinho, Raf Simons, A.F. Vandevorst and Sophia Kokosalaki. Speculation on who's been headhunted for 2003 will be settled by a formal announcement in April.