Gilles Mendel's Spring '13 collection was quite the flowery affair, replete with eye-popping floral prints and wispy dresses efflorescing a garden's worth of fabric blooms. This season, the J. Mendel tone deepened by several registers, as Mendel emphasized a moody palette and taut silhouettes. He also introduced a new print that riffed off and abstracted Ori Gersht's photographs of exploding flowers. That was an explicit riposte to Spring; this time out, the print announced, J. Mendel would be eschewing girlishness and frou.

As Mendel pointed out, his leaner, meaner look this season was largely attributable to his decision to focus less on manipulating his materials (by pleating them, for instance) and more on showing them off by means of architectural construction. In practice, that translated to slim metallic jacquard dresses and tops that featured paneling or articulating seam and trim details. Mendel's dressier looks also emphasized harnessing and bustier construction, though evidence of his gossamer touch remained in a frothy, red carpet-destined gown topped with a sheaf of fluttering chiffon squares. The construction overall was impressive—it was nice to see, up close, the consideration that had gone into these simple-seeming clothes. Overall, though, Mendel's more straightforward take on his classic, high-end look only served to reaffirm that "pretty" is his native language; even hard-edged J. Mendel clothes are heavily accented.