How ironic is it that Gilles Mendel's spring shows have become his strong suit? J. Mendel is a fur house, after all. And yes, he still cuts a superluxe broadtail vest coat, this season in pale lilac. But it's his dreamy gowns, pintucked at the bodice and falling to the floor in soft waves of gently fraying dove gray, ice blue, or lemon meringue, that set the hearts of his front-row ladies aflutter. (No one more so than Dr. Lisa Airan, who will wear a gown of his design at her Tuscany wedding next week.)

You could even say that Mendel initiated the trend, in New York at least, for the romantic, petaled evening looks that are so prevalent on this week's runways. For spring, he was thinking more geometrically. Overlapping circles were a recurring motif on everything from a chocolate patent-leather coat to his new suit: a short-sleeve jacket with volume below the bust worn with a pleated, full skirt. And to drive home the point that he can do more than evening, he even tried his hand at denim. A stiff, midnight blue, it was sliced and chevroned like his furs, and oozed uptown cool.