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There were good-looking clothes to suit a variety of real-world needs on the spring runways, ranging from pretty Empire dresses to cool skinny knits.

Nina Ricci: In fits and starts, Lars Nilsson has sent some very appealing clothes down the Nina Ricci runway, with varying amounts of curious filler presented in-between. For spring, however, he seems to have ironed out some of that awkwardness and to have truly cleaned up his act.

The collection was a jaunty mix of airy dresses and Franco-preppy sportswear. Sweaters in coral or periwinkle blue were worn with belled skirts in stiff cotton drill or in smart seersucker. A shooting-star print carried throughout, lending a quirky sparkle to an Empire-waist dress. While a tricky half-belting technique threw a few dresses off-balance, overall, Nilsson’s collection demonstrated plenty of personality without sucking the air out of the room.

Akris: At Akris, Swiss-based designer Albert Kriemler sees no reason to raise a ruckus, even for the occasion of a fashion show. But quiet doesn’t necessitate boredom. Kriemler raises his points of interest in a restrained way — a chic, casually rolled-up dolman sleeve on jackets and dresses, the turned-up hem on lovely pleated skirts or a subtle print of flower petals barely visible on a smokey chiffon dress.

Though the extraneous addition of a pleated panel on skirts and dresses didn’t quite compute, it was easily overlooked. Along with soft pieces in muted shades of silk — chiffon, organza and georgette — were slim tailored pants paired with equally slim jackets or slightly belled knits. Eveningwear options — ultra-simple draped chiffon dresses — weren’t perfect, but still greatly improved from last season’s lingerie-like offerings. In the end, it was a collection that will easily leap from runway to reality and delight Kriemler’s retail fans.

Giambattista Valli: Giambattista Valli has joined the jostling pack of designers who are ready, willing and able to dress the world’s socialites. For their polite pleasure, he showed sculpted cocktail dresses printed with bitsy garlands and others with rosettes trapped in their hems. There were lunching options beyond the classic suit for the more modern lady, like his gently twisted sweater and slim lace skirt. Besides a few experiments with volume — including one dress with a bustled caboose — it all looked perfectly viable.

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Valli’s clothes are beautifully made, if occasionally overblown.

Ann Demeulemeester: Those trend followers growing weary of saccharin romance may find what they’re seeking in Ann Demeulemeester’s aesthetic. Her spring show had a healthy selection of very wearable pieces in the above-it-all, punk vein embodied by longtime muse Patti Smith. Cool, skinny knits layered up with thin suede vests hung languidly over lean and long bias satin skirts or baggy pants. A shrunken-black jacket was well-cut and covetable. She worked the simple detail of a slimly shaped halter neck again and again, draping it over the collarbones in front or over the shoulders in back to elegant effect, except in a series of paint-spattered white silk looks. Demeulemeester still clung to the démodé look of matted hair, chalk-white face and vampirish black satins in much of her presentation, but her fresher takes on spring were a step in the right direction.

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