Every season has one or two of those shows where a well-respected but not terribly exciting line suddenly whips off its glasses, undoes a few buttons, and shakes out its topknot, leaving jaded fashion-world regulars stuttering over their words and groping for notebooks. This time, that delightful transformation happened at the venerable, 60-year-old Swiss company Akris. There's always been an upper-echelon customer for its painstakingly perfect suits and coats, but over the past few years, with Albert Kriemler (son of founder Max Kriemler) at the helm, Akris has been quietly freshening and lightening its designs, and fall's show proved the transformation complete.

As much as this season's frill and flourish are fun to look at, ultimately women want clothes that can survive a grab-and-go lifestyle while still performing the important role of personal enhancement. Enter Akris' nip-waist jackets, trim trousers, pencil skirts, and snappy coats cut from cashmere, tweed, suede, and lamb, worn with luxe cashmere sweaters or silky tunics. Those kinds of basics can easily turn boring, but Kriemler has a gift for proportion and cut, and he managed to balance all the elements—rough with polish, bulky with airy—without getting bogged down in tradition. The silky dresses and gowns that closed the show emitted just the right amount of subtle sex appeal. And, while his fluttery smocked chiffon tops may have Swiss milkmaid in their genealogy, their flirty confidence was purely modern-day.