Backstage before the show, all the talk was about the future. It made sense after Spring's spectacular celebration of Roberto Cavalli's first 40 years in business that his mind would be on tomorrow rather than yesterday. The initial mechanik burst of Kraftwerk on the soundtrack backed up that assumption. Then Mariacarla Boscono strutted out in a gilded mélange of fabrics and feathers and flyaway frippery, and it was instantly obvious that Cavalli won't be blasting off to Futureworld any time soon. He's still too much in love with his rock 'n' roll gypsy woman.

But she'd changed. Under her lace and chiffon she was wearing armor—or at least a metallic bodysuit that gleamed dully through diaphanous outer layers. Cavalli's woman had become a warrior. The delicate femininity of Spring had been co-opted by fierceness. This woman's seductive powers were now resident in her new strength. She was literally wearing the pants, and Eva Cavalli, for one, was cheered by her evolution. The designer's collaborator was beaming at show's end.

Along with this shift in emphasis had come some developments in the house's artisanship. Particularly striking was a lacquering technique for leather, and a jacket that combined feathers and fur in an eerie wet look. Flowing red-carpet gowns were as pretty as Art Nouveau glass, but the core of the collection remained the tough edge of Cavalli's new bohemia.