The trends are finally catching up with Richard Chai, who is a devout minimalist. His spring collection was a continuation of themes he has been developing over the past two seasons and had a uniquely appealing preppy-meets-Asian vibe.
First, the Asian part: Origami tailoring techniques, which have become a Chai signature, were visible from the very start, with hopsack trousers with the waistband folded over to reveal a dot voile lining, and skirts turned up at the hem in a triangle shape to show their undersides. Chai's belts were where the two worlds, collegiate classic and Eastern, collided beautifully. While they were intricately folded (some veiled in tulle), they were also tied in big bows over topstitched marine-color trousers and pleated skirts, some worn with cropped blazers.
"Lately, clothes have been so opulent; I was aiming for something understated," Chai said backstage. He did give in to some decorative impulses. Embroidery, in the form of loosely sketched floral patterns, was scattered across skirts, pants, and on a white trench coat. Several tops had crystal necklace embroidery, as did the hem of a pleated sundress.
The strong eighties shoulder Chai favors was back again, just a little bit softer. It's not in keeping with the season's trends, but he may be onto something. While the layering was occasionally heavy, a moss-green taffeta trench and a khaki-and-cyclamen T-shirtdress that were gathered and simply tied in a knot in the front had the restraint and ease Chai was after, and accomplished.