Esteban Cortazar looked to his roots for his second Emanuel Ungaro collection. He dedicated the show to his father, Valentino Cortazar, and printed his dad's love letters to girlfriends on the runway. Then there were the leggy and bright clothes (not to mention the floppy Panama hats) that looked very much as if they were made for life in a hot climate—like southern Florida, from which he hails.

Cortazar opened with a ruched and ruffled one-shoulder party dress straight out of the Ungaro archives; the splashy florals he used for other little cocktail dresses also looked heritage. But elsewhere—somewhere among the tapered cargo pants, peasant blouses, and a knit poncho with fringe—he strayed a bit too far from Ungaro's sophisticated path. (On the positive side, he did prove he has a nose for trends: He showed his own vivid versions of the short-in-front, long-in-back dresses that have popped up elsewhere this week.)

Going forward in this troubled global economy, it's going to be all about big brands, or at least recognizable ones. Everyone is rooting for Cortazar—partly, no doubt, because he's so young to have been given such a big responsibility. He should retrench and come back with a collection that's less South Beach and more Paris.