Crime and Punishment. War and Peace. The Gulag Archipelago. Vladimir Lenin and Vladimir Putin. Russians are not exactly famed for their buoyant dispositions. So why do the territories of the ex-USSR turn out designers with such a puckish take on fashion? Vika Gazinskaya is one such; Natalia Alaverdian is another. Each season, she bases her A.W.A.K.E. collections on another animal; this time, she elected the rooster. Why? Because she'd been watching Takeshi Kitano movies, and like the director's yakuza antiheroes, the rooster has a strut. Fair enough. Another Kitano takeaway was this collection's homage to the Hawaiian shirt, inspired by the wardrobe of Kikujiro.

Poultry plus gaudy florals should not be a recipe for fashion success, but this collection was bursting with charm, and somehow, Alaverdian managed to keep the quirk factor to a minimum. A lot of that had to do with the collection's restrained shapes, which Alaverdian had reined in quite a bit from last season. There was a nice sense of volume here, but expressed in small gestures rather than grand. A pair of culottes, for instance, featured a broad side pleat that opened them up and gave them a sense of movement. Those culottes were a standout; other winners here included the drapey silk suit in white and the crisp pleated cotton dresses. And though the collection's graphic rooster print could have been used a bit more sparingly, it was hard to argue with its appeal in taut pencil skirts and dresses or a kicky little A-line shift in jacquard. Alaverdian was in the business of making realistic clothes this season. They were accessible, but they had a nice little strut.