Who thinks about the working woman these days? That┐s a down-to-earth question that doesn┐t appear to blip across many designers┐ radar screens in the twenty-first century, at least not when they┐re lining up runway parades for the press. MaxMara, on the other hand, is one of the few solid supporters of the belief that a woman in winter may (at the least) need a good coat in order to get through the humdrum A to B. This season, as it happens, a savvy style choice could well be an updated camel-hair classic. MaxMara has been in that business since the fifties, and this season's show revolved around its iconic belted coat, along with other aspects of town-and-country outerwear. There were small Norfolk jackets and shearling aviators that seemed nicely on-trend yet not limited to the category of one-season-only fashion statements.

The problem comes in fleshing out that pragmatic core as a fully realized collection. Yes, big flaring skirts are part of the current scene but they don┐t necessarily do much for the hips in blanket-weight fabrics. Ditto cable knits and Swarovski crystal when married into the same sweater. MaxMara can also stretch its credibility by feeling the need to show eveningwear. This season, the design team picked out the crystal-encrusted jersey keyhole disco gowns of the late seventies designer Loris Azzaro as a trendy reference du jour. Fine, but it┐s still those elegant coats that will keep the MaxMara woman coming back for more.