Entering the Lincoln Center tents' main stage this evening, you got the sense that it's at the Elie Tahari show, and a few others like it, that the real business of fashion happens. Tahari makes commercial clothes, no two ways about it, but he's also smart enough to keep things fresh on the runway.

Riffing on early-twentieth-century explorer chic and Egyptian exploration in particular, Tahari kicked off his show with a group of white and sand-toned looks accented with gold trim and accessories. His long, tailored toppers, airy blouses, and gold mesh accessories won't present a challenge to customers; the good-looking harem pants and flapping skirts will probably be a harder sell. The show lost some momentum as it moved into a color story—pales blues, equatorial yellows, and tangerine, plus some hits of teal. That said, there were a few winners here, too, such as a wide, zigzag pleated mid-calf skirt in blue and mottled orange silk pants that tied at the ankle. (The latter will have some takers downtown, too.)

And then the momentum picked up again, as the collection faded to black. Tahari sent out some very good geometrically sequined evening looks. The standout was a sequined pencil skirt, topped with a fantastic black sweatshirt that seemed to have been dusted with gold. And he closed the show strong, with a harem pant halter jumpsuit that featured a dramatic capelike back.