The invitation gave it all away: red-and-white striped, in an envelope with confetti and a peanut, it was advance warning that IOC designer Tara Subkoff had run away to join the circus. And indeed her show, held in the cold, cold riding ring at Manhattan’s Pier 63, offered several variations on the theme of the spectacular. Trapeze artists, stilt walkers and trick ponies had nothing on a front row that included Harvey Keitel, Lorraine Bracco, Finola Hughes, Hope Atherton, Liz Goldwyn and China Chow, as well as the ever-multiplying, ever-sequined clan that is As Four.

The collection was presented in three sections. Camouflage menswear was followed by vintage-y, majorette-inspired gala dresses, which in turn gave way to a group of all-gray cotton clothes on a procession of models led by Chloë Sevigny, as Nick Cave's "This Is a Weeping Song" played on the soundtrack. The lyrics, the drab cadre of models and the military overtones hinted at social commentary, but the message, if there was one, was undercut by the finale: a fat lady singing—literally—to an operatic accompaniment over the sound system.

Once again, IOC has staged an elaborate, metaphorical critique of the fashion industry—with its focus on appearance, technical skill and some sleight of hand, it could be likened to a circus. But next time, it would be nice to really see some clothes. And some heating wouldn’t hurt, either.