Marissa Webb is still building her brand identity, an identity that's blessed and cursed with the oft-used modifier "former J.Crew designer." On one hand, buyers and shoppers are thrilled to know Webb spent many years designing pieces they already own. On the other, it's hard to escape the bright, glittering shadow cast by the empire that Mickey Drexler built.

Webb's challenge is to draw from what she helped create at J.Crew while establishing house codes that are hers and hers alone. Her tight Pre-Fall collection is a big step toward that. "It's a palate cleanser," Webb said of the rack of mostly separates, mostly in black and white. There was special attention paid to comfort, too: Sweat-style pants were made work-appropriate in gray flannel and black crepe, while the menswear-style button-downs were shirred between the shoulder blades to give them a loose, open back. Even Webb's take on the little black dress, a V-neck shift with lace sleeves, was cut wide to offer ease. A plaid organza shell—again, with an open back that hung much longer than the front—paired as nicely with its matching pleated skirt as it did with a color-blocked tuxedo pant that had the narrowest white silk piping down the seams. It all hung together well, and looked very "Marissa Webb." No modifier needed.