The Salander-ish hair at Antonio Berardi came as no surprise. His muse is powerful and smart and certainly uses her clothing as a sort of armor. However, the initial reference for this collection was on the other end of the aesthetic spectrum from the antiheroine hacker. Berardi was looking at the rococo sculptor Giacomo Serpotta, whose molding work he vividly compared to "a wedding growing out of the wall."

You'd hardly call these clothes florid, but you saw Berardi's inspiration in all the arced seams—not a single straight line in the bunch, he claimed—and curving contrast panels, which he used to hint at the body-con curves for which he's known. (The effect was quite striking in the hourglass shape set into the back of two coats.) He gained his hourglass-loving reputation years ago, and he's eager to shake it: Today he showed his skill with other shapes, particularly those full, fifties-inflected A-line skirts with kick pleats. For day they came in a bouncy neoprenelike fabric that's actually a silk and linen weave backed with bouclé and cut against the grain. Its great matte finish and the way it looked sculptural but not stiff gave the first half of the show its sharp modern beauty. And to hear Berardi talk about it is to be reminded that he is a masterful technician.

Masterful but not perfect. Though he does killer cocktail, Berardi admitted that full-on evening isn't his strong suit. Perhaps it's because his ideas are best served in smaller doses, but his gowns felt dragged down, whether by peplums or weighty fabrics. But in all that was a slight stumble during a strong step forward.