A lot of designers like to think they know "what girls want," but Phillip Lim really has a knack for it. He senses early which way the winds are blowing, then nimbly and ably harnesses them with his chic pragmatist's sensibility. For Fall, he's getting in on fashion's clean-up act, now underway. "Last season, everything was on the outside," the designer said last week. "This season, we're paring down to the essence." That was seen to best effect in his strong, gotta-have-it outerwear. Take your pick from a luxe black buckled cape, a collarless camel coat edged in black silk, a leopard-print shaved rabbit fur, or a hybrid shearling-and-tweed toggle coat.

That new simplicity dovetailed with part of Lim's inspiration, which set itself during a moment in the seventies when disco dissolved into punk and Halston's influence could still be felt. But the best souvenir from this bit of sartorial time travel was the trousers. The murmur of approval began with a pair of black suede flares in the second look, and slowly grew with the many creased and high-waisted pants that followed. One caveat: Most were cut in a seemingly heavy silk, sometimes with an animal print, that was pleasing to behold but didn't have immediate real-world appeal. (Though we reserve judgment until we've tried them on. We did just call Lim a chic pragmatist.) The best ones came in a blush bouclé and were paired with a languid gold sequin blouse. With an evening option like this, his severely asymmetrical silk dresses—hacked off, according to Lim's backstory, by an erstwhile Studio 54 reveler—seemed like less fun.