"OK. Let's stop the blah-blah! Just give us something to wear! This looked effortless. Job done. Great." Thus the chic Paris retailer Maria Luisa Poumaillou expressed the elation of the grown-up women leaving Richard Nicoll's show. The excitement: soft tailoring and modern separates carried off with a sustained aura of conviction and confidence. Nicoll's wrapped blazers, long skirts, oversize cashmere sweaters, and draped silk velvet came as a timely, well-judged reading of what women have been missing lately—the part of fashion that slipped into oblivion when short, tight dresses took over. Obviously, it took Phoebe Philo to shift the agenda on that, but Nicoll has always had an executive woman somewhere in his repertoire. In seasons past, to be honest, she's been prone to making pop-up appearances and then disappearing as if embarrassed, but this time, she's fully out, and no apologies.

In this second wave of the emancipation of the working woman (who'd have thought we'd still have to talk about that in the twenty-first century?), it's not good enough to fall back on retro clichés like pseudo-power suits. What Nicoll is contributing is a new language of work-relevant daywear unencumbered by tiresome and limiting fashion-y references. His solutions are centered on one-color dressing (taupe, rust, a beautiful Air Force blue), choice rather than uniform (he has pants, as well as long and short lengths), and a body-skimming fit (satin T-shirts, cashmere tunics). Easy. And yet so hard to do.