For metaphors, you can't beat the setting of Prabal Gurung's first-ever pre-fall presentation: the 58th floor of the new Setai Hotel on Fifth Avenue. With his new ICB deal and his latest red-carpet coup on Golden Globe nominee Rooney Mara, Gurung is a designer on the upswing. He set himself a challenge with his new pre-collection: incorporate more easy-to-wear pieces into the mix, and he delivered. For one, there's his new T-shirts (much blogged about on fashion sites last week), and for another there's the bomber jackets, running shorts, and fit-and-flare knit dresses that he's added to the lineup.

Gurung's starting point this season was India—not the "obvious India" that designers tend to think of, but "the muddy India, the ruins," he said, speaking from experience. "It can be harsh, really, but it's still beautiful." Accordingly, the glitz factor was near zero. He relied on a kaleidoscope print for his dresses and separates rather than the glitzy embroideries he's sometimes been known for. The palette was just as focused; in addition to black and white, he zeroed in on emerald green and a subtle, earthy pink. At the time of our appointment, a silk cocktail dress in the former was already in the possession of a famous red-carpet-bound actress the name of whom Gurung wouldn't reveal. Like we said, upswing.