With their towering vertical, square-shouldered demeanor, Fendi's women looked like an elegant army of survivors who might have walked through an apocalypse and out the other side. Their clothes, mostly dark, were cut with narrow flying panels, oddly textured with what looked at a glance like worn-through or dust-spattered fabrics and frayed edges. Of course, it wasn't that at all. Close up, the raw threads were minute dustings of mohair or fur, and the semi-destroyed materials proved to be advanced treatments of cashmere, burned-out chiffon, and flannel. Somewhere in designing this collection, Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi arrived at a dynamic balance between confronting the current mood and creating a modern proposition for that problematic word luxury.

Experience and technical expertise count here. Lagerfeld, after all, has navigated Fendi through many periods of Sturm und Drang when showy luxury has fallen out of favor, and he knows how to calibrate a response. Some of the devices used this season—like a fur cut to look like a shearling flying jacket—use disguise as a tactic. Yet Lagerfeld also knows this is no moment to fall back on grungy poverino styling. If women are going to be persuaded to buy, there has to be a compelling reason. His way is to infiltrate innovation into the mix: a strong silhouette with a subtle undercurrent of glamour. The furs, of course, are as extraordinary as ever—technical feats that merge sable and fox, or use technology to make white gold cling to mink. On the other hand, this collection has moved far beyond being a mere foil for Fendi's craft skill as a furrier. Its fashion appeal as a ready-to-wear collection is now so clear, its reach has gone well beyond the core product.