The consciousness-raising videos that precede every Kenneth Cole show are not known for their subtlety. And considering that the toll of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast is still being assessed, Cole had particularly potent material this season. While his recruits Whoopi Goldberg and the FVU (Fashion Victims Unit) laid the message on extra-thick, the designer's passion for helping survivors by donating to the Red Cross came through loud and clear.

Just like his film, Cole's presentation could have done with a firm edit—fewer looks, at a faster pace, would have got his fashion message across more efficiently. He kicked things off with a great pair of full trousers, topped with a high waist and wide belt that reappeared on pencil skirts, knee-length pants, and blouson shorts. Elsewhere, he riffed on American classics: cropping a leather trench above the hips, adding a playful ruffle to a wrap dress, and cutting a jacket in a utilitarian paper-nylon material that shined like taffeta. No-frills jersey was pleated and smocked into tops as comfy as an old T-shirt, but still plenty chic. As for the crinkled-chiffon dresses worn with ballet flats that closed the show, they came in colors luscious enough to make his customers forget entirely about last season's triumphant return of basic, head-to-toe black.