Donna Karan’s latest collection was titled A Uniform of Dressing and described rather dubiously as a mix of war and romance. The designer’s extrapolation of the military theme came down to buttons and grommets, essentially, and officer’s jackets that were either long and fitted or short and double-breasted. The romance, meanwhile, had a very sexual undertone and was witnessed in the collection’s winks of sheerness, gathered body-con dresses, and vertiginous skirt slits, not to mention the blouses with exaggerated sleeves that looked as though they were about to fall off. Not in a bad way—in a shrugged-on, post-coital way.

The war and the romance were both largely red herrings, though, which was welcome given that the aestheticization of war has never felt less appropriate. Karan’s real theme, it turned out, was fabrication, and her exploration with textiles was what gave the collection its panache. There was a very cool, leather-like lacquered satin used, for instance, on the apron front of a slit-to-there pencil skirt, and a crinkled leather limbed with stainless steel. There was crocheted chiffon as well as crinkled chiffon with lashes of thread that produced a feral feel, one that reverberated even more forcefully through the pieces in a black eyelash jacquard. And Karan—the ultimate jersey girl—bonded the material to neoprene and used it to great effect in both fitted looks, like the long-line officer’s coat, and voluminous ones, like an evening dress with a skirt fretted with peephole slits. That dress was a standout item, alongside the designer’s fuzzy blanket coat in an offbeat check jacquard and her body-con jersey dresses, a signature look that doesn’t get old. But perhaps her most winning design here were her cropped silk pants. Understated, sure, but those pants looked terrific—easy to wear, sophisticated, fresh. Theme not required.

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