The physical location of Betsey Johnson's beatnik romp was Bryant Park, but the imaginary setting was a dark and smoky joint in the Village like the Bottom Line or the Bitter End. Johnson went all out (no surprise there): Her set had bare lightbulbs and tables topped with straw-covered Chianti bottles and copies of On the Road. There were even three bongo players in striped shirts at the end of the runway smoking faux Gauloises. "I've got to have an environment that you can enter into because I get so terrified of showing clothes," Johnson admitted.

The show, which opened with a great fringed leather jacket, featured viable mix-and-match pieces like a twill blazer, a suede wrap skirt, a zebra cardigan, Lurex leopard leggings, and a sexy stretch-denim catsuit that would be great for layering. "This collection is a real flip for me, in that I'm going very dark, beatnik, black, bold, slim-lined, and leotardic," the ever-bumptious designer said. "It's kick-ass with a harder hard edge, in a Joan Jett kind of way."

Johnson is celebrating 30 years in the business, and she closed the show with an anniversary march of archival pieces sourced from vintage dealers. The parallels between Fall and the looks in the retrospective were unexpectedly clear. "It's interesting," she said, sounding surprised herself. "You see there's a timelessness to this stuff."