The prints that opened Michael van der Ham's show were such a clever idea, you almost felt a lightbulb pop up over your own head. The designer had frozen his signature fabric collages as images of torn swatches on smart crepe de chine blouses and scarf-wrap skirts. "I have to build a business," the soft-spoken van der Ham said in explanation.
A print that distills all his ideas means that there's less to "get" and more for women to instinctively want. That great cotton tweed top and dress will surely find their way to a retail rack with little resistance. But if this show was about refinement—see those custom-print Louboutin T-straps—it was also about a return to what made his clothes stand out. After last season's experiment with working his ideas in a single fabric, his multimedia assemblages were a welcome sight.
There are some who might view that reach for elegance as a loss of edge and a dimming of raw creativity, but van der Ham is in his early days and clearly in the process of honing his strategy and approach. Still, count this as a move forward.