Stuart Vevers has unearthed a Hollywood heroine in Loewe's Madrid archive. "We recently found a visitor's book signed by Ava Gardner," he said backstage. "That's been a bit special." It explained why Old Blue Eyes was on the soundtrack of the Fall presentation. Gardner fled to live in Madrid when her marriage to Frank Sinatra was on the rocks, in 1955, after filming The Barefoot Contessa in Europe. While amusing herself with, among other things, a virile bullfighter, she also found time to pick up the occasional handmade leather item in Loewe's Gran Via store.

But what did thoughts of Ava bring to this show? A glamorous lacquered hairdo, a fur beret and demi-veil, and a ladylike gloss that sufficed to locate the styling in the on-trend decade of the season. Also: the new Ava bag, a two-handled purse that has been stripped of all hardware, leaving only the utterly smooth Spanish leather and a discreet embossed trademark to express its provenance.

That, really, is emblematic of the kind of progression Loewe needs to be making at this point. Vevers has made efforts to bring irony and trendiness to this home of traditional Spanish quality, but flash and fun in a bag doesn't sit so well in a post-crash era when women have emerged with a fresh taste for the investment classic. That new sense of purpose seemed to have reoriented the ready-to-wear, at least partly. The conventional side of the collection focused on suits with fur dickeys tucked into the neck, high-waisted A-line skirts, and Spanish-military-influenced jackets with leather trimmings—as well as thick waffle knits that follow the same train of thought as Prada's Fall collection. It didn't quite account for the presence of a cream fox-trimmed parka or the chestnut leather X-backed pinafore that closed the show—not exactly on the old-school Hollywood movie-star track. Perhaps they're items that can find purchasers in Loewe's stores, but now the company's moved into runway presentations, and the pressure is on Vevers to commit to a totally integrated, coherent offering if he's to command critical attention.