I almost made a mistake. I started watching this Barbara Bui collection as it came down the runway to nice, elegant piano music and started thinking, “Oh, what a nice, comfortable, and soft winter white collection this is.” I mean, Karlie Kloss just looked so sweet in the tan fur jacket and nicely pressed white slacks. Everything was office appropriate, warm, and inviting. Silhouettes were large and room with some of the biggest cable knits I’ve seen in quite a while, both in a sweater and a beautiful poncho that started the show. The white eventually gave way to an over-sized python print, but even that was pleasant enough to qualify as day wear in most places. The collection was looking very inviting and I was smiling.

Don’t be fooled as I was. This Barbara Bui collection is bi-polar. As the music changed and took a more rock-and-roll feel, so did the clothes. There was a four-ensemble transition, which involved a really interesting watermark print on a couple of broad collared coats. Leggings were tighter, but since the coats were so large I didn’t feel too terribly challenged.

Then came the leather. With the leather, everything turned black. There was no return from the black. Instead of big cable knit sweaters, we now had crop tops. Instead of big, fluffy overcoats, we had biker jackets. In placed of delightful watermark prints, we had metal studs. Lots and lots of metal studs. The personality switch was so dramatic it was difficult to believe we were still watching the same collection.

Here’s the thing: the black works! Yes, the look and feel are totally different, and there are sufficient knit pieces in the black part of the show to keep that warm, cuddly feeling going a bit. What is really worth looking at is the cuts Barbara puts into some of these pieces. One would-be biker jacket is a pseudo-crop top where the front panel extends down in a v shape, creating a very dynamic visual. All those studs? They run down the front of the jacket, the front of the pants, and onto the top of the shoes to create a very powerful and seamless look that is almost breathtaking. Just to sex things up a bit, Ms. Bui tosses in a couple of little black dresses, one with a very sheer top, and a couple of masculine tailored black suits to round everything out nicely.

When the final walk came around, it really felt in many ways as though we were looking at two separate and distinct collections. What Barbara has done, though, is given women strong choices because most of these pieces are separate and black and white can mix a half dozen different directions all season long make this line a real set of wardrobe builders.

Barbara Bui is not a designer to be put in a box and easily labeled. She demonstrates with this collection that she can design for all the personalities of a woman and keep them looking good no matter how they’re feeling. Who could possibly ask more from a fall/winter collection?

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