02/13/2013 09:31 EST | Updated 04/15/2013 05:12 EDT

J. Mendel takes his fall collection in a spicier, sensual direction

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Come fall, the J. Mendel customer will toughen up a bit. She will still have her gala gowns, her furs and her lunch-date looks, but she'll be serving them with a spicier attitude.

"I felt like it was time for leaner shapes, a little fierce," designer Gilles Mendel said Wednesday in a backstage interview before his New York Fashion Week runway show. "She's still feminine, but she's not an angry woman."

Who could be when her closet is full of a quilted mink motorcycle jacket with a clever detachable bottom (two coats in one!) or a pearl-colored mink turtleneck sweater that she can wear with a slim tailored pant?

"I'm just a big fan. ... I really sort of respond to the ladylike, feminine sort of clothing," said front-row guest Katherine Heigl, who has worn his dresses on the red-carpet circuit.

Her new choices include a black silk chiffon gown with detailed Art Deco embroidery and mink-fur trim, and a black-and-white colorblocked gown with side lace panels that had a python effect. Mendel also showed a pretty blue gown with a sweetheart bustier bodice and asymmetrical draping, which is not a typical look on this runway.

The gowns were largely inspired by Guy Bourdin's photos, which were very sensual, Mendel said. "I do like to show a bit of skin. It shows a little, lovely part of you."


Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.