Guido Palau doing hair, Diane Kendal on makeup. A high-octane PR firm handling the logistics, the season's best models on the runway, and Diane Sawyer in the front row. A 10,000-square-foot loft headquarters with cinematic views of the Hudson River, and a brand-new store in SoHo. This doesn't sound like your typical second season from a fledgling designer. Then again, Phi is no shoestring startup; it's backed by Susan Dell, the fashion-loving wife of computer billionaire Michael, and she's got the deep pockets and determination necessary to establish a new player in the merciless fashion world.

Phi's even had its first designer turnover—original creative director Tim Garland left in July after one season, handing the reins to design director Andreas Melbostad. But there was no sign of bumpiness on spring's runway: Melbostad segued seamlessly from fall's urban-goth look to a more delicate collection that still reflected Phi's luxurious take on tough chic. He kept the palette limited to black, ivory, and pinky nude, and used fabrics ranging from tissue-weight silk and cotton to stiff linen canvas and supple kangaroo skin. There were well-cut trousers, silky bare camisoles, and fluid knits, and some standout boxy bombers, pea coats, and trenches. And the fluttery georgette and chiffon dresses and gowns, with just enough detailing, did due penance for some clunky sarong shorts and bubble skirts.