Gilles Mendel, who presented his clothes in vignettes at the Chelsea Art Museum to much acclaim last season, was back in the tents for Fall. Why? Because, Mendel explained, his "hard-edged" clothes were about "an attitude" and needed to be seen in motion. It was the right choice, if only in the sense that the handwork details that made close-up viewing so exciting last Spring were nowhere to be seen. Missing was the color and craftsmanship that is the core of the J. Mendel brand identity. (Fur, of course, is also at the label's heart, and the designer used it sparingly, too—although a double-faced wool coat with broadtail inserts deserves mention.) There was but a glimmer of the old J. Mendel glamour in the beribboned, jewel-toned chiffon gowns that closed the show. So what happened? Mendel said he was putting more emphasis on daywear, but 40 looks later the audience was left searching for any message in this collection.