"It's very austere," said Antonio Berardi. "That's what people seem to want from me." He opened with the kind of strict, sexy tailoring—in black, naturally—that he's been doing since the last time "austere" was a buzzword. Jackets and coats with fine boning fit like a glove in front, but their backs were left free; an hourglass sheath clung to every curve, all 360 degrees. Also in the plus column was an interlude of thirties-style bias-cut gowns.

But Berardi only got his formula half right.

Where he went wrong was with the furs, piecing together gray mink to resemble a human spine and dying an enormous coat a too-vivid shade of yellow. The finale gowns were a bit of a puzzle, too. Stretch-mesh minidresses embroidered all over like armor were Berardi at his body-conscious best, so why did he add billowy capes as big as parachutes?

Backstage, he boasted that after increasing prices on his pre-fall collection, sales had gone up 50 percent. But the runway-only looks that made up a percentage of today's show won't do anything for his burgeoning bottom line.