Trussardi and Umit Benan, its designer of two years, parted ways after last season; Milan Vukmirovic, its previous steward, managed only a few more. It was hard to escape the sense that the ruling family wanted to keep its decisions made in the family. Maybe that's hindsight speaking, now that Gaia Trussardi has been named creative director. She was noncommittal on the advantages of the bloodline. "It's been 34 years that I've been breathing it," she said simply—it being Trussardism, whose dominant characteristics include a belief in the universal applicability of leather. Trussardi has been, for a century-plus, a stalwart of accessories and leather goods. Its Spring collection—warm-weather season notwithstanding—was almost entirely skin as well: thin, supple leather dyed dusty colors, cut into dusters and anoraks, T-shirts and jeans.

Backstage, Gaia was spinning a traveling yarn: A "desert atmosphere," with "open space, freedom, bright light, a sense of movement," she said. Her leather pants were loose, pajama-style, not the rock 'n' roll sausage casings of yore. "Effortless elegance," she decreed. That's a phrase that seems to be applied everywhere these days, but the collection did in fact smack of it. It had less of the distinctive point of view that characterized her predecessors'. Whether that comes with the seasons, time will tell. The desert is wide; the trek's just beginning.