This was Narciso Rodriguez's first show since Liz Claiborne took a stake in his company this spring, and there was an air of anticipation on his runway that went beyond the video-camera melee caused by celebrity attendee Rachel Weisz. Would the cash infusion mean an increase in production values? Yes. Would it mean a change in direction? Not a chance. Rodriguez has an ultra-specific point of view; what's $12 million (the amount Claiborne paid for 50 percent of the label) in the face of his sacred devotion to precision seaming and architectural construction?

Working what he described as a "ninja" theme, he stayed true to his rigorous silhouettes but injected both a bit of Japonisme (kimono silks, floral embroidery) and a natty new masculinity—courtesy of copper oxfords made in collaboration with Sergio Rossi's Edmundo Castillo—into his familiar sexy mix. The show opened with a snug-waisted jacket with an abbreviated peplum and skinny, short pants. Following on were smart coats with hook-and-eye closures offset to one side, simple shirts with spliced necklines tucked into pants that laced up the back, and a great zip-front black dress with a purple stripe across the waist that could've been an obi. In fact, black, purple, white, and gray were the show's predominant colors, so a burnt-orange dress with a short, full skirt really stood out. It was a perfect balance of allure and ease, and made the slip dresses he showed look flimsy in comparison.

Evening is where that cash influx became obvious. While a nude dress and a black coat embroidered with whorls of georgette looked like quiet showstoppers, a pair of short cocktail numbers with caviar beads dusted across the front panels—the more striking of the two in lilac and black—are certified entrance-makers. The beginning of a beautiful relationship? From the looks of those two dresses, yes.