Why would an award-winning accessories designer add ready-to-wear to her already impressive résumé at exactly the moment economists are talking recession? "I needed a new challenge, and, evolution-wise, this was the right moment," Devi Kroell said at Milk Studios, scene of her polished 23-look presentation.

Kroell, who first made a splash with her really big, really soft snakeskin hobo bag, put her passion for unique materials to work, shifting her focus from skins to silks. The neatly conceived collection was made of fabrics with a beautiful hand, inviting a good touch and feel. (Not that she entirely ignored unusual leathers: There was a knockout black-and-white shawl-collared sea-snake coat in the lineup, too.) Kroell managed to deliver on a promise too often made but too little kept: to carry a woman from day into night. Full-legged pants, bow-tied blouses, and a waxed-cotton trench fell on the office-friendly side, while a slightly bubbled peony-pink dress and a strapless back-trained black number—shown, naturally, with the perfect bag and shoes to match—tilted toward cocktails. "There are a lot of disposable clothes on the market right now," Kroell said, "but not many that you'd want to collect or hold on to. I want to create very luxurious clothes with a restrained elegance to fill that gap." Blue-chip investments for the long-term? They always make good dollars and cents.