Backstage after her show, Tao Kurihara offered only a few words in explanation of her collection. "Miss Honey," she said. That might have the ring of a drag queen's adopted mantle, but we doubt that's who the designer was picturing. When pressed about her muse for the season, she seemed to have someone more traditionally elegant and feminine in mind.
Of course, in Kurihara's world, imposing a story is not the point. What marched out here was, in fact, a markedly more streamlined version of the designer's surreal and frothy romanticism. For starters, she contained her poufy volumes in a longer and leaner silhouette. The first look—a strapless gown that could have been made of ruched and embroidered bed linens—followed the line of the body more than anything Kurihara has ever done. A few looks later, a black gown smocked on the bias and topped with a knotted and ruffled evening jacket was almost conventionally glamorous. (We are speaking in relative terms here.) Usually Kurihara seems to be designing by loading it on, but here she was often taking away. An entirely sheer black lace dress was a beautiful ghost of a garment. Elsewhere she used smocking to rein shapes in.
There was an overall sense of sophistication, evident in the palette (almost exclusively black and white), in the ladylike elements of polka-dotted silk and lace, and even in Kurihara's take on proper updos and hats. As an added bonus, the new lighter, upgraded collection included the retail-ready individual pieces that have been an integral element within her dreamlike vision but were absent last season.