The interiors of Saint Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre served as a starting point for Christian Siriano's Fall 2013 collection. That reference was obvious in the opulent gold beading, the masses of black velvet, and the ornate brocade. Siriano imagined his muse as an escort circa the 1880s whose client has folded her into the upper echelons, erasing her sordid past. Handkerchiefs were tied around the heads of many models, further emphasizing the Russian-peasant thing. Yet they were more reminiscent of babushkas than women practicing the world's oldest profession.

If that prop was a wrong move, Siriano did other things right. The designer, who is best known for appearing on reality TV and dressing celebrities—Ashlee Simpson sat in the audience alongside young actress Shailene Woodley—says that sportswear is becoming more and more important to his business. "We sell a lot of it in Russia, actually," he mentioned during a preview of the collection.

His efforts in the medium were successful. A black chevron knit, which he shaped into form-fitting but not skintight dresses, looked easy and sophisticated. A pair of sweatpants-style trousers, which came in a buttery leather, was the collection's coolest moment.

On the formalwear front, two cocktail dresses in metallic fuchsia wool—a color nodding to Russian red—will please his girly-girl customers. The metallic bustiers, paired with cropped pants, marked the first time this week that we didn't groan when a peplum appeared on the runway. (Let them go, people.)

Siriano is a longtime collaborator with Payless, and the shoes created for the runway were fun, done in velvets and metallics and encrusted with brooches and jewels. Of course, they'll be altered a bit for the Payless audience, but hopefully the brocade brogues will make the cut.