Emilio de la Morena
has spent the past few seasons focusing on daywear. This time out, he reversed course and reasserted himself as a maestro of the party dress. As de la Morena explained after his show this morning, he was inspired to return to first principles by a reengagement with, as he put it, his "Spanishness." Specifically, he said, he was contemplating Goya's alleged mistress, the Duchess of Alba, and considering how to evoke her baroque carnality in a modern way. Step 1: Lots of velvet. That most sensuous of materials was all over the place here, and put to particularly good use in the collection's trim trousers, nicely redolent of the ones Tom Ford did at Gucci ages back, and in the knockout pencil-shaped cocktail frocks. The ruched, tricolor dress that closed the show was a particular red-carpet-ready highlight. Step 2: Ruffles! De la Morena has long had a soft spot for ruffles. Here, he rendered them supersize, to pleasingly sculptural effect. Step 3: Mongolian fur, dyed in various shades of pink. Curly Mongolian was the other key texture in this collection, and together with the omnipresent velvet it created a tactile atmosphere that bordered on sensory overload. The real caveat to this collection, though, had to do with its silhouettes. De la Morena undoubtedly makes money from short, flared party dresses, but their appearance here diminished the force of the otherwise lean 'n' mean look on the runway. They were just too "cute"—a word, one imagines, no one would have dared to use to describe Goya's duchess back in the day.