To gauge what's going on at Jaeger, you have to understand the British term "the high street": It's the stretch of affordable fashion that supposedly takes in everywoman—a market that has recently been characterized by plummeting prices and a matching slump in standards. Jaeger sits at the upper end of that segment, a brand with the historical aura of a good-but-boring name about it, squarely set in the middle-income, middle-aged bracket, and not afraid to say it.

So when the audience rolled in for the debut of the brand's Jaeger London collection, expectations might fairly have been described as middling as well. What a surprise, then, when a great, shaggy brown-and-black goat-hair bomber marched out, followed by a nicely cut brass-buttoned caped jacket with a giant sou'wester cut in the same fabric, then loopy knitted chubbies, and more neatly tailored coats with stand-up collars and big patent buttons. More surprising yet, it managed to pull off the difficult trick of acquiring fashion content (a bit sixties, while avoiding egregious clichés) without insulting the existing customer. Can she be forty-plus and go for those double-knit bonded jersey flares with maybe a matching cape? Sure. They're an item with cross-references in international fashion (say, what Halston is doing in New York), but they'll be affordable and provide a great deal of presence at a conference table, too.

There are a few secrets behind this. One is that Jaeger's CEO, Belinda Earl, and her all-female team live that life and understand it. Two: The woman who took the bow is Karen Boyd, who had a label with Helen Storey in the late eighties. And three: They hired all-British super-league talent—Stephen Jones for the hats, Sam McKnight for hair, Russell Marsh for the casting, and British Vogue's fashion director Lucinda Chambers as stylist. They spent the money, and it paid off. After the show, a delighted Earl said the collection starts wholesaling for the first time tomorrow.