Richard Chai has been hard at work. Since Fall, he's added to his roster two pre-collections: a recently completed pre-spring and a breakthrough Resort that scored him a first-time order from Bergdorf Goodman. Well, those long days in the studio have paid off. This Spring was the designer's most accomplished collection yet. Before the show, Chai laid out his agenda: giving city women a new, sophisticated way to dress. "It's not trend-driven," he explained. "It's more about timelessness and pure design." Chai worked in long, attenuated silhouettes in dusty, cool colors with a clear Belgian influence. It's a look that has just enough fashion for the mean streets without being liable to draw stares on the subway.
Lean but fluid floor-length skirts and dresses came with sporty pairingsa soft leather bomber, a long cotton-silk anorak. Those may be familiar staples, but Chai has a knack for adding subtle refinements, like the gentle pleats on a neckline or the elegantly slender racerback on everything from skinny knits to a daywear shift dress. Though suit jackets, also with lengthened proportions, were abundant, it was the array of white shirts in shadow-striped cotton (and one in a terrific bleached print) that stood out among the more tailored looks.
Chai carried his menswear notions into evening with a silk crepe waistcoat and pants followed by a trompe l'oeil waistcoat gown. But the more he gets to know his customer, the more he realizes she's a sucker for his dresses, too. He offered her a lot to love in crepe shirtdresses and charmeuse shifts. This designer is growing up quite nicely.