The lure of a Mary J. Blige mini-concert attracted a larger than usual crowd Friday night to the Malandrino show. Despite a tiered, rotating stage that made serious viewing something of a challenge for most of the audience, everyone went home happy—thanks not only to the R&B queen's feel-good vibes, but also because Malandrino sent out a collection that was free of the exotic touches that last season distracted from her pretty message.

For fall, she embraced a muted palette of chocolate, black, ivory, and silver, which she quilted, embroidered, and crocheted in her signature style to mostly subtle effect. If the proportions of a few looks—a bulky satin parka, say—verged on the old-ladyish, she made up for it with a houndstooth bouclé suit belted with insouciance. A pair of silvery-white gowns, meanwhile, had just the right mix of youth and sophistication.