The trials of Italy's newest talents, Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi, might soften the hardest heart. First they parted from the company under which they designed the 6267 label; then they signed up to Gianfranco Ferré, only to find that one season later, its owner, IT Holding SpA, has gone into administration, its future uncertain. Thankfully, however, the pair don't have all their eggs in one basket. Aquilano.Rimondi is their own, independently financed label, and given all other circumstances, it is now their one serious chance to prove what they're really about.

The focus seems to have done them nothing but good. The collection they showed had some of the most sophisticated, fashion-relevant tailoring in Milan: a neat, peak-shouldered, lean-torso tuxedo coat; a fabulously curvaceous gray pinstripe pantsuit; and draped-shouldered dresses fit for an old-time movie star. "Good taste and chic are needed in fashion," said Aquilano. "On the runway, you sometimes have to exaggerate, but we also just want to make clothes women will want to wear. And not to keep changing every season for the sake of it. Continuity matters."

Their technical accomplishments (which have also been illustrated at Ferré, though in a more mannered way) are already not in question. Nor is the tuning of their antennae toward the defiant glamour of World War II, or their timely obsession with Elsa Schiaparelli, which brought out one of their best dresses, a black sheath with exaggerated, shocking-pink velvet sleeves. Where the designers did falter was in their overfussy puffed-up taffetas and overdecorated furs, which could have come from anyone in Milan. What Aquilano and Rimondi would be smart to realize now is that their specialness lies in their ability to cut a precise silhouette and to make clothes, like their fabulous tweed coat with fox fur sleeves, that could be worn in plenty of other places besides a cocktail party.