Is the Narciso Rodriguez trick to make more look like less, or less look like more? The designer is a master of elegant simplicity. It was no surprise that for Pre-Fall, he started with the simplest of shapes—the T-shirt—and alchemized it. (A black T-shirt is his de facto uniform.) "The ease of a T-shirt got it all rolling," he said.

The resulting pieces—thigh-grazing tee dresses; silk jacquard tops with skinny, two-tone cigarette trousers; placket-less jackets in a mostly black and white palette livened up with blush, royal purple, and brick—had the clean lines and rigorous purity he's known for. "I like seeing something quite pure," he said. (Barely a button or snap was visible anywhere.) And yet from those plain beginnings, he wrought something wonderful. His prints were not prints but jacquard; a standout jacket was woven in hairy, tufted tweed. The patterned pieces were mitred together on the bias so that the motif changed over the landscape of each piece: here a spot, there a jointed heart.

Is he elevating the simple? He's obsessive in his attentions to the insides, outsides, structure, and stuff of a garment. He turned jackets inside-out to show the color blocking on the lining, no less deliberate than that on the outside; one T-shirt dress was cut in such a way that it appeared to be wilting. Or is it that he's boiling down the construction fit for the most precise, complicated pieces into the purer shapes that suit his taste? The world may never know. Happily, they're easy to appreciate from either side of that ideological divide.