Despite a rain-soaked morning, fashion week got off to an impressive start. While Perry Ellis’ Patrick Robinson proved that his talent crosses all categories, Kenneth Cole tried to get his message out. Doo.Ri did pretty, and so did Tocca, as per usual. Costello Tagliapietra, meanwhile, made a simple, beautiful first impression.

Perry Ellis: Let’s hope that, between them, the folks at Public Clothing Company and Perry Ellis International have the good sense to keep this thing going, because with Patrick Robinson directing women’s wear for the label — whether destined for better, contemporary or both — it has the building blocks for a major success story.

Robinson jumped out of the gate a year ago with an ultragirly better collection, its frivolity and vintage-y eccentricity tempered by a clever utilitarianism. So clever, in fact, that one might miss it, which was apparently an issue for the various suits involved, who feared too much fashion and too little of the same-old, same-old that typically sells in better departments. The argument goes that better is no place for even the minimal trappings of frou. But then, those ladies can’t buy what’s not there, so why not give them the chance to doll up a bit?

That said, this collection definitely has a contemporary look, which suits Robinson just fine — and he maintains he’s got the retail ammunition to fuel his upscale ambitions. “Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys [New York], Harvey Nichols — have all been interested,” he said during a walk-through of his presentation on Tuesday. “I see this next to Marc by Marc [Jacobs].”

Surely this effort could facilitate such an elevation. Robinson continued the collection’s feminine identity while moving deftly from the overt vintage attitude of the last two seasons. All pasteled, ruffled, brocaded and, yes, chinoed, the tight lineup of just 18 looks offered a do-it-your-way bounty in mixed colors, textures and even a few boyish touches. A very Perry sweater and ruffled shorts looked “Pretty Baby,” and the pink velvet-sashed white silk dress, ultraingenue. But the appeal here shouldn’t be limited to the underage set, since many of the skirts, pants and small jackets could easily swing toward chic, albeit young, matron types. Either way, it worked beautifully.

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