If you came to Peter Som seeking whimsy, you had to settle in until look 19: a sleeveless silk shirt tucked into matching pants, both printed with cartoon green-eyed cat heads. (Almost literally the cat's pajamas. Ba-domp-bomp!) Otherwise, it was a very different offering from the designer whose typically colorful and kooky elegance appeals to would-be Little Edies on the Upper East Side.

"I wanted a precision and crispness," explained Som in a preview. "At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel strong and sexy." No question, he delivered on his goal. For strength, see the sculptural minimalism of rounded linebacker shoulders and neo-forties peplums that flared from trim waists. As for sex, it came in banded sheer organza skirts and dresses, which played a sleek peekaboo, while jackets came with a (removable) frilled boudoir-ish trim.

No doubt there were elements here that many recognized from other recent runways, but the well-executed shift in emphasis seemed to elicit raves. Still it's always interesting when a designer aims for a mark outside his wheelhouse. Is he courting a different customer or pushing along his existing clientele? Not that the choice is mutually exclusive. The Som woman might find a grainy-textured belted camel coat rather drab, but she'll thrill to the emerald version in bonded wool and satin with its new New Look silhouette. Or perhaps she'll split the difference in a jacket made of black bonded eyelet lace and wool. The dichotomy wasn't so stark. The sleek, thigh-slit peplum dresses in jewel-toned satins, for instance, would appeal to a variety of sensibilities, provided you have the body to pull them off. And a pair of kaleidoscopic furs, which interrupted the tight palette of four colors, were a pure delight for all (and pure Som), whether or not you care for the arty-cool reference of Nick Cave's "Soundsuits."

It was certainly an unexpected move for Som to side with mean and clean. What'll be interesting to see is where the designer goes from here.