Designers eager to replicate Phillip Lim's success should study the crepe mélange "sweatshirts" in his pre-fall collection. Lim saw his assistants wearing sweatshirts to work and loved the look, so he whipped up a few versions of his own in a crisp mélange fabric, trimming some in crystals at the neckline. Smart move. It might come as a shock to people in fashion, but most corporate dress codes don't smile on gym clothes at the office. Function has always been as compelling to Lim as form, and it is again for pre-fall. An untreated rabbit fur coat, for instance, reverses to navy. Wrap-front trousers can be worn with the flaps hanging down at the sides for a more undone vibe. And in a move that will delight fans of 1990s Helmut Lang, Lim has inserted straps inside coats at the armholes, the better to keep them in place when slung over the shoulders.

The loose inspiration for the collection was the late British writer and cartographer Freya Stark. Her travels in the Arabian Desert seemed to influence the color palette of rusts, persimmons, and olives, as well as the uniformlike feel of a navy shirtdress and camel suiting. But Lim is a resolute modernist. His latest innovation: cotton woven with abaca, a fibrous plant native to the Philippines, for a crisp, sturdy hand.