She was the designer of a whoppingly successful collection of silk clothes for evening. Her husband, Christian Aujard, was the creator of an internationally admired (and bought) collection of more casual clothes. They never saw each others' collections before the first day they were publicly shown.

"He often had critical things to say about my things and he was often right," says Michele Aujard adding quickly "but then I had criticism of his things. And I was right."

Then 1 1/2 years ago, just before his collection was to be presented for the pret-a-porter season in Paris. Aujard fell off his horse. Six hours later he was dead.

Michele Aujard introduced the Christian Aujard collection three days later and has been its director since. In that time business has doubled.

"It is luck that has made my collections a success," she added shyly.

Michele Aujard, 34, had been the stylist for Aujard for the first seven years of his business. "But even with the greatest love in the world it is hard to work with someone for 24 hours. "They both had strong personalities, she explained.

So when she proposed a business of her own, taking her family name for her label, Michele Domercq, her husband understood. They would not compete, they agreed. She would do evening things, mostly in silk crepe de Chine: his clothes were clearly for daytime wear. They never discussed what they were doing. "I hid my designs from him. He hid them from me." she said on a recent visit to Washington at a Lord & Taylor party for the Junior League.

Then the accident. The horse now roams free by her home in Giverny where she lives with her two boys. "My husband loved very much the horse. I don't want to sell or to kill it." But no one rides it.

Giverny is the town where French impressionist Claude-Oscar Monet lived and the Aujard home is just a few doors away. "It is a pretty village. The spirit is Monet. The countryside is like a Monet painting."

At first she had "no will" to change the Christian Aujard collection, but the last two seasons have been totally her own.

"I think that clothes are first to make people pretty, but at the same time to be wearable, to make one feel comfortable inside them," she says, a bit surprised with her own success in English.

She tries on every piece of clothing before it gets her final approval. "I think first of driving a car," she says, making the motion of turning the wheel. "If it is tight, I just don't make it."

Color gets her special attention. She likes black for fall and winter evenings - and in Washington she was wearing a black cire tunic and pants. For day the shades are muted, soft, often with a bright, clear color accent. "Most important is that colors blend so that all the parts can be worn together."

In the current collection, everything is a mix of textures: the jacket, the sweater, the skirt or pants and the blouse all in the same genre. There are more pants than skirts in the Washington fashion show - all the pants slightly tapered to the hem - but she sells almost as many skirts. Shoulder pads slightly raise, without exaggerating, the silhouette.

But she says, "that is for this year. For next year, I don't know."

What she does know is that seven years ago she put huge shoulder pads in her clothes, she says, because that's what Yves Saint Laurent was doing. But the clothes never sold. "Women just didn't like it." she said. "And we forget how many short women there are."

She doesn't suppose women will like the exaggerated shoulder pads in many of the new fall lines. The shoulders of her designs are barely padded: just lifted a bit if at all. She's not sure, "but maybe they will go over well."

She still has a hand in Michele Domercq giving final approval to the line and oversees the Christian Aujard menswear as well. Eventually, there will be a perfume, "but first the clothes must go well. There is no rush. I don't want to make a mistake," she says.

But beyond that, no sheets, no furniture, nothing else will have her husband's name. Not even clothes for children.

"Wht?" she asks. "My boys only want to wear jeans."