Fall found Elie Tahari in top form. The designer, who is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of his namesake label this year, always succeeds in making urban, wearable clothes (not to mention office-appropriate sheaths), but this season felt a bit more in touch with the here and now. The collection's theme was "lightning through the darkness," a notion enhanced by the clear plastic umbrellas covering the walls and ceiling of Tahari's Fifth Avenue flagship for the presentation. In keeping with this after-the-storm mood, the color palette was full of smoky neutrals accented by pops of sky blue and sunset pink. As usual, there was an emphasis on sporty tailoring, but the overall look was more relaxed than in seasons past, which felt current.

Chunky, hand-crocheted sweaters and fuzzy mohair pullovers were paired with wool skirts featuring either kicky trumpet shapes or graceful pleating. Other modern proposals included slouchy knit trousers, borrowed-from-the-boyfriend bombers (several of which featured fleecy shearling hoods), and cropped sweaters with built-in shirting details for a cool, layered effect without the fuss. Speaking of layering, outerwear was a clear highlight here. Tahari understands that if there's one item his customer needs this season, it's a statement-making coat to get her through cold months like these. So the lineup offered a range of functional yet fashionable toppers with high points such as a cocoon-ish style cut from bonded tweed, and a standout baby blue number that looked fresh shown with a matching leather biker jacket underneath. Meanwhile, sidewalk-ready accessories like knit beanies, fur trapper hats, and cozy looped scarves added a touch of grit to the mix and underscored the clothes' real-world appeal. Without a doubt, this was a definite step forward for Tahari.