Chez Nina Ricci, Lars Nilsson was interested in melding the soft with the hard. He leavened the fragile dresses that he loves, light and airy as 1930's lingerie, with sturdy elements to protect them from the cold: a blond fur jacket with ballooning Renaissance sleeves caught with marmalade ribbons; lean, long-line tweedy coats; and sporty swing-back jackets. Nilsson seemed more comfortable, though, with soft pieces ("flou," in couture workroom parlance). Standouts included fragile blouses traced with insets of lace, pretty evening gowns, including one in blush-pink chiffon frosted with crystal, and a gray chiffon djellaba casting a shadow over the tree-of-life print on the under-dress beneath. These were so effortlessly constructed they seemed as though they had been blown by some zephyr onto the body.

But there was hardness even in the lingerie elements, courtesy of Nilsson's collaborator Mr. Pearl, the corset king. This season, the elaborate lingerie pieces he develops for the house included a spectacular wasp-waist, silvery satin strapless evening dress, with the seams and boning of a nineteenth century corset. (Not all Pearl's pieces are this demanding on the wearer; as those chiffon lingerie frocks spilled from shoulders, or a lacy mohair knit sweater plunged daringly low, the flash of a perfectly constructed satin brassiere revealed the subtler aspects of his work.)

For Nilsson, trees are as beautiful as the flowers that are emblematic of this house, and he delighted in prints that celebrated them—from that tree of life to a shadowy autumnal fall of leaves. These elements gently evoked the work of twenties Swedish artist and architect Josef Frank (whose textile prints are enjoying a renaissance) and revealed the designer's fondness for the folkloric aspect of his native country. They also tapped beautifully into the turn-of-the-century, fairy-tale spirit that is one of fall's more poetic trends.