Antonio Berardi was a pretty well kept secret until Gwyneth Paltrow surprised everyone by wearing his trompe l'oeil corset dress to one of her premieres last year. That stirred curiosity about an Italian-British designer who, tortoiselike, has been steadily moving along years after many of the hares from his nineties generation have streaked into obscurity. The collection Berardi showed for Fall rewarded a second look: The quality has ramped up, he's added furs, and generally found a niche in which classy young women will now discover something genuinely interesting to wear.

He clinched all that at the outset with pale, soft, paillette-smothered dresses. Backed onto chiffon, they had movement and looked right dressed down with thick ribbed tights and suede shoe-boots. Berardi has also developed a rounded, raised shoulder that looked fresh on cropped jackets, coats, and a great little black dress (the structure, he admitted later, was gleaned from his knowledge of corsetry—it's cut from the same foam as molded bras). Thanks to collaborations with Saga furs and Crystallized Swarovski Elements, Berardi has also managed to add an extra level of luxe to his signature pieces. He patched fox and lynx onto knit in innovative ways, so that a trompe l'oeil gilet came with blue-sequined sweater sleeves, and jackets turned to show a back view featuring chunks of geometric crystal embroidered onto gray jersey. It was a small, concise statement from a designer who has found his voice—and there is more where that came from. Though he showed mostly evening on this runway, Berardi's pre-collection is full of great utilitarian outerwear and tailoring, too.