Carmen Dell'Orefice kept the cameramen occupied before Ralph Rucci's show got underway tonight. No one could take their eyes off of the still beautiful octogenarian model as she vamped it up in a long red coat by the designer and white kid gloves. Dell'Orefice's outfit choice was a fitting one. Rucci embraced color with gusto for Spring: shocking pink, chrome yellow, coral. All of them came together on what must've been one of the show's most difficult pieces to complete: a black double-face wool crepe suit, one arm of which was braided entirely from tubes in those colors. Rucci has long made a virtue of the technical feats performed by his New York atelier—he's been in business for 31 years—and this collection wasn't short on them. There was a twinset made from densely woven and braided strands of leather not much wider than al dente angel hair, a black smoking with patent insets on the back, and a taffeta gown with no fewer than four layers of skirts, to rattle off just a few examples. Counterbalancing such lavish offerings was simpler fare like a citrus yellow T-shirt dress in Ultrasuede, a pink plissé frock with a trapunto bodice, and a ravishing, if understated, caftan in double-face silk crepe.

But it's the couture-grade workmanship that has put Rucci where he is. Not all of his indulgences were as well judged as that caftan. A caviar-beaded blouse in coral and its matching duchess satin stole were a bit de trop. It may not look like much in the picture, but to this reviewer's eyes at least, the show's most winning piece was a white silk cloque dress with a pink plastic detail at the waist. It captured two things: Rucci's refined sense of proportion and cut, and his exquisite taste in fabrics.