Secondary collections sometimes suffer from neglected-sibling treatment, making do with hand-me-down rejects from their bigger sisters. Thankfully, Donna Karan avoids that approach with DKNY, giving the label a personality (smart, snappy, a little bit trendy) all its own.

Fall's collection was one of DKNY's best yet, full of right-on colors, fabrics and proportions. The palette was classic fall—greens, browns and plums in tones that ranged from acid bright to muted—all the better to back up the collegiate-bohemian vibe. The show opened with a generously cut tweedy overcoat worn over a body-skimming kneelength jersey dress, and followed up with lots of examples of the new trouser shape—narrow, cropped just above the ankle and worn with bulky boots or chunky heeled pumps. There were cozy, bulky sweaters that sat on the hips, A-line skirts made from bias-cut strips of fabric or sunburst-pleated for a swingy flare, crisp boxy jackets and fragile chiffon dresses, pintucked and pleated to a fare-thee-well. The only points of crossover with Karan's signature line were the soft, wrinkly leathers she used in her spring collection, but they were welcome additions to the party.

She may cherish her own identity, but the DKNY girl is happy to raid mom's jewelry box for a big glittery brooch, or grandma's closet for a swinging, three-quarter sleeve coat that she'll wear over tweed trousers or a silky jersey dress. When it comes to nighttime, however, she's strictly modern, heading out the door in a a skin-baring, jewel-toned satin slipdress. Don't ask what time she'll be home.