Giorgio Armani has major ambitions for his Emporio empire. Talking backstage among racks of spotted dévoré velvet dresses, puff-shouldered leather jackets, taffeta bubble skirts, rabbit and fake-fur coats, and rows and rows of crocodile-stamped ballerina flats and platforms, he said his second line is going global; 13 new stores will open this year, with 19 more by the end of 2007.

To fuel that turbo-charged expansion, he's harnessed his young team of studio designers to take the collection—and the accessories—in a direction that is much more sharply in step with fashion. His opening look was a narrow laser-cut fake-fur coat over a knee-length skirt, silk blouse, and squared-off ballet flats with metal-tipped bows at the toe—the Emporio version of the bourgeois lady look, neatly nailed. Like Armani's main collection, Emporio avoided pants (if you overlook the odd pair of wide-leg taffeta knickers) in favor of a jacket-and-skirt or jacket-over-dress combination. The designer also reprised the forties silhouette in velvet polka dots as well as working up many variations of draped bubble skirts.

Armani tends to show so many outfits on the runway that the collection becomes difficult to digest. A better way to look at them is separately, on a rack, the way they'll be seen in a store. In that context, many of the elements—those tiny, curvy, battered-leather spencers, a rockin' zebra-print fake-fur jacket, the chunky-glam shoes, and his first great hat, a fox cossack with a black patent visor—qualify as pretty cool.