Emilio de la Morena fans were in for a shock today. The designer has earned a fervent following for his kicky frocks, with their sexy winks of skin, punchy color combinations, and fit-and-flare cuts; meanwhile, the first look at the designer's Fall 2012 show was a head-to-toe black ensemble comprised of narrow—gasp—trousers and a belted wool mantilla. Quite the 180, suffice it to say.

But the change in direction was welcome, and not just because it saw de la Morena trying on a new, long and lean silhouette and experimenting with leather and daywear. The biggest change here had to do with the intent in the clothes, and the feeling behind them. De la Morena is by nature an intellectual designer, and in past seasons he's shown a tendency to abstract himself with references from art and architecture. This time out, he worked from the heart, seizing on his Spanish roots. And so, for all the superficial severity of this collection, there was a nice warmth of tone. Much of that came through in the collection's mix of textures—wools, leathers and patent leathers, slinky silks, cabled hand-knits. There were also textural gestures—ruched leather detailing, leather in a marbled print—that added to the collection's tactility.

Somewhat surprisingly, de la Morena showed a real knack with his tailoring. His kick-pleated coats and jackets were really sharp, and though the leather trousers could have used some finessing, the slim wool pants were well-done. And he had an interesting thought in applying daywear materials to his evening pieces, making gowns with high-waisted skirts of tailored wool. Not everything worked here, but there was a lot of promise on the runway; it would be nice to see de la Morena continue to refine his new ideas.