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Wonderful fabrications but boring silhouettes do not a fashion house make. This point was taken by a series of super-luxurious companies that, for spring, attempted to inject more fashion sensibility into their collections. Think evolution not revolution — but then again, every effort counts.

Agnona creative director Daniela Cattaneo described the transformation at the house as a bit like plastic surgery. “It’s easy to change dramatically, but what we want is a subtle change with a natural effect,” she said. To that end, Cattaneo maintained the house’s famous double-face summer-weight cashmere jackets but added airy elements, such as pleated chiffon dresses with jeweled necklines and smile-inducing prints, including a lime-and-pink, flower-power floral.

Brioni staged a three-panel video installation of a woman entering and exiting an anonymous apartment in a series of simply chic clothes. In the past two seasons, the Brioni woman has become more of the man’s equal without relinquishing her femininity. Sturdy cotton canvas trenchcoats were lined in organdy, while chiffon dresses bloomed with hand-painted flowers. Always in search of the ultimate expression of luxury, Brioni’s creative director Fabio Piras cut python into a sleeveless sundress as an alluring alternative for afternoon tea at the club.

Another haberdashery powerhouse, Kiton, has carved out a charming women’s collection in the past two seasons. Hand-stitched jackets, lined in the company’s signature printed-silk twill, have become more contoured, colors lighter and prints younger for a cheerful line that offers understated style for women of all ages.

Luciano Barbera’s sweet crush of summerweight cashmere cardigans, lilac polkadot chiffon skirts and drop-waist linen dresses was as fresh and delightful as a popsicle on a summer day. Barbera kept the collection young in spirit with printed topcoats and great polo tops that, although made for the golf course, are perfect for any mingling following 18 holes.

Loro Piana’s technical prowess is unmatched when it comes to innovative fabrics, yet the workmanship is always presented in the subtlest ways. For spring, the family-run company introduced a round-neck twist sweater, which utilizes an impossibly complicated manipulation of yarns. In simple terms, the technique produces a madras pattern of 22 hues from seven basic colors. Outlandish fashion is not part of Loro Piana’s vocabulary, nor is it part of the language of its discreet customers.

This story first appeared in the October 4, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.