Trust Karl Lagerfeld to tweak a trend just enough so that it takes you by surprise. Like other designers this season, he worked couture details into his clothes for Fendi; but lace, rosettes, and the kind of hyperfeminine frills that have become commonplace on the spring runways weren't on his agenda. Instead, he employed high-tech materials such as black silicone, silver leather that was laser-cut to resemble athletic mesh, and holographic paillettes. "I wanted to use the most traditional craftsmanship with the most futuristic of fabrics," he said.

Restricting himself to a palette of black, navy, white, silver, and shocking pink, and keeping the silhouette Edie Sedgwick–short, Lagerfeld came up with a graphic collection in which the space-age sixties and the sexed-up eighties played equal parts. There was a metal micro dress with a bow tie at the neck and an iridescent puff-sleeve shift, but alongside those were several looks—a batwing-sleeve number, for example, or a knit fur jacket—that came with wide, waist-defining belts.

Having introduced the concept of craftsmanship, Lagerfeld also said that he wanted to make it modern, easy, and light. It didn't always work that way. A long, strapless tube dress nearly tripped a model up. Still, how welcome to encounter a designer in Milan for whom high concept trumps commercialism—not that there weren't plenty of best-seller candidates here, including a spot-on fringe bag made from splices of that futuristic silicone.