Jonathan Saunders did a couple of very smart things while he was designing his fall collection. One, he took pattern-cutting lessons; and two, he toured the States, where he learned about American customers from retailers. Before he even settled on a concept—which was influenced by Peggy Guggenheim's 1940's art collection—that back-study gave him the technical and mental advantages to make a breakthrough with this line.

A prodigiously talented print designer with a fine-art background, Saunders has developed an increasingly sophisticated handwriting. He engineers pattern and shading—in this collection, graphic lines, blocks, and schematic feather prints—to edge hems and the tips of scarves, and to lend trompe l'oeil effects to fluttering panels that seem to merge into the body of dresses. The show's black, white, and gray scheme was inspired by an odd collision of modernism and surrealism (and particularly by Elsa Schiaparelli's famous Tear dress), but that's not what really matters. Saunders can now cut a dress that not only shows off his prints, but also looks great on a body. More than that, his long evening dresses have a new raison d'être as eventwear for American women who like to feel pretty, but with an edge.