Natalie Ratabesi, the new designer of Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti, is off to a strong start. Her debut collection for the label was pre-fall; today she began the work of articulating her vision of the Philosophy woman in earnest. Ratabesi's inspiration for this collection was a bit daft—she imagined a Mongolian princess mooching around Paris at the height of the haute couture fifties—but it led to clothes with a modern, matter-of-fact appeal. Two seemingly simple looks serve as a case in point: One, all white, paired a trim jacket with an architectural peplum and a lean but diaphanous wrap skirt; the other, all black, matched a pair of soft, high-waist trousers with a superb blouse with sheer stripes and voluminous sleeves. Those two looks seemed to lay the foundation for the Philosophy era to come: They retained the brand's characteristic sense of romance, but elaborated on it in a way that was free of both froth and fuss. These were real clothes, and very chic ones at that.

Of course, not all the looks were so spare; Ratabesi really went to town on knit, proffering glimmering, long-haired Mongolian ski sweaters, sculptural hand-knits, and sweatshirt-shaped jumpers featuring variegated stitch details. She cuts a mean full skirt too, the best of which were done in pleated chiffon, and weighted at the hem; they had a casual hang that served to update the shape. Further updating was accomplished by means of the collection's slick outerwear: Philosophy is going to sell loads of the white, fur-trimmed, zip-off parka. The one quibble here, really, was with Ratabesi's swirly, jolie-laide prints, which seemed a little out of place. But on the whole, this was a collection full of winning pieces, with a ton of promise.