Unlike most designers, Maria Grachvogel never starts off with a reference—no 18th-century painters or 1960s starlets for her. Instead, she begins with a paintbrush, and for Fall this painting ritual happened in her Captiva Island home in Florida, as she watched the early morning sun hit the water. The resulting shimmery, translucent picture, which she called "Cyber Goddess," was then digitized and became the print story for her collection, appearing in two color ways. Grachvogel also played with geometric shapes: A gown (as worn last week by Emma Thompson on the BAFTA red carpet) had a grid of diamond-shaped inserts in the back; a geometric folded panel appeared on the neckline of a satin-backed crepe dress; a triangular "optical illusion" cutout on the waist of a gown was subtle and effective.

Grachvogel's techniques could be called demi-couture. Case in point, a dress was cut from one piece of fabric, then wrapped around the body like a spiral. The spirit behind it was precise fit: Whether a size 2 or 12, it wouldn't matter; this was a flatter-all piece. Grachvogel's dresses were body-skimming but not body-con, sensual but holding back a bit of mystery. Some of the work involved in the collection was painstaking: For the "Cyber Goddess" dress, the print had to be regraded to fit each size. Asked how long it took, Grachvogel said, "I stopped counting the hours put into each dress years ago."

Grachvogel is as obsessed with fit and function as she is with painterly prints. She doesn't want her clients fussing or having to adjust clothes, and in her world your outfit has to take you from day to night, "looking gorgeous and glam throughout." That came through in a gently draped jumpsuit with a comfortable elasticized waist. Then there was an ivory bonded stretch dress (with plenty of cotton for breathability), with a yellow triangular hem detail. Grachvogel's black cape blouse and high-waist trouser look (a variation of her best-selling "magic pants") were equally suited for work or dinner at Claridge's. The designer is a red-carpet veteran, and there were a couple of gowns, too, including one with an intricate lace overlay on the bodice that melted into a print from the hip down.

Grachvogel turns out high-quality collections year after year with little fanfare. Despite this, she has been rewarded with a loyal international following and some celebrity love (Victoria Beckham, Angelina Jolie, and Yasmin Le Bon, among others) that she tends not to trumpet. This year marks the designer's twentieth anniversary: With this kind of craftsmanship, she should have twenty more years to come.