"Light" was the first word Richard Chai used to describe his collections this season. The question is, what kind of light? There were many kinds on the runway today. There was the glassy lightness of sheer nylon, deployed effectively throughout both his menswear and his Richard Chai Love womenswear collections. There was also the gossamer lightness of digitally printed floral silk fil coupé inserted into halter tops, and the anti-gravitational lightness of the designer's abbreviated fit-and-flare skirts, a key item for Spring 2013. And there was the pastel lightness of the palette, at its best in the opening section of icy lavenders and powder blues, and the light play of lamé and holographic sequins. But maybe the most important reading of "light" for Richard Chai this season had to do with tone: There was a winning lightness of spirit to these clothes. They looked fun to wear.
For Love, the signal looks were the fit-and-flare skirt, which Chai executed in a couple of sprightly cuts, one A-line, one flounced, and the crisp, fitted minidresses, a development of the same silhouette. The dresses were particularly sharp in dark denim and a slick technical cotton; the more formal embroidered dresses and those of collaged printed silk came off a bit cluttered. Elsewhere, Chai had a nice idea in his wavelike color-blocked neutrals, and his bike shorts and shaped tees in neoprene looked seriously luxe—though this reviewer, for one, isn't totally sold on neoprene as a warm-weather fabric. (There's a reason they use the stuff to make wetsuits.) The über-cropped halter tops, however, seemed perfectly seasonal. Cheers to the girl with the abs to pull off those tops.
The menswear saw Chai getting a little experimental, particularly with his materials. The collection emphasized technical fabrics, but he used them—cleverly—in classic ways. To wit, a sheer polo or a double-breasted jacket in color-blocked gray nylon. He also played with the finishes of his materials: The cotton in the collection's pale blue soft suiting was treated to maintain a subtle permanent rumple. In general, the men's looks were strong—relaxed yet refined, with a nice sportif affect. The one off element was his overliteral homage to motocross, but even these pieces will break out just fine and work their way into many a well-dressed guy's wardrobe.