Calvin Klein: Francisco Costa’s got one of the toughest gigs in fashion. Not only did he succeed a major god, accepting the mantle of expectation inherent therein, he did so just after that god had cashed out to new owners with their own set of hopes, not the least of which is to push the bottom line, sooner rather than later. Then of course, he faces a third set of expectations: his own.

It is the role of any designer taking over a house to maintain its integrity while putting his own mark on its aesthetic. Klein created one of the most unequivocal viewpoints in all of fashion, and in his first three collections, Costa started from a vantage, if not of pure reverence, then at least unwavering solidarity. The fall collection he presented on Thursday revealed his first inclination to break ranks with the master in significant ways, at times even a bit recklessly. The effort pulsed with the essential ingredients of experimentation: surprise, mistakes, and most of all, confidence.

Either by design or accident, Costa chose to limit volume at a time when many other designers here are puffing up big time. While in past seasons he has favored fluid, even billowing proportions, this time he opted for stricter shapes, some with a Sixties Space Age look, until now completely alien to the house. A shirred mink coat flaunted a grid motif; origami decorations trimmed tops and dresses; shiny patent leather tiles and strips glistened from skirts and coats. It was, in fact, in this penchant for decoration — and a harsh moment in brassy citron — that Costa strayed most boldly from the revered Klein purity. And though a few looks felt too tricked-up, many were lovely, as when he wrought subtle havoc on men’s wear grays, with tailored patchworks of herringbone and wool lace. He also showed some graceful evening frocks and here he gave a nod to volume, most notably in a short, airy bubble of an evening dress.

Sometimes during  the show, one felt the age-old struggle between art and commerce. And there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a designer’s job to reconcile the two. Hopefully, Costa will be allowed to do so in a manner in which tricks won’t overshadow the essence of the house.

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