Last season, Richard Chai offered a fresh take on American sportswear, rethinking preppy classics by adding some signature origami construction to them. Fall found him exploring a sort of Japanese-style deconstructionist mode. Clearly the designer was challenging himself, daring to experiment with varied fabrics (cashmere gauze, Jacquards) and textures (brushed and boiled wools), while pushing his talent for construction into new areas.

For the most part, crispness was out, draping was in. If the folds of Chai's cashmere wrap coats were cleverly arranged, other drapey separates—some with asymmetrical closings—seemed disheveled. But the main problem was the off-kilter proportions; shorts were strangely paired with long coats and jackets, and the boiled-wool pants were cuffed at a height that made them seem more shrunken than cropped. Nonetheless, a pair of bias-cut skinny pants in suiting fabric was undeniably sharp. Chai showed a new emphasis on evening, offering flowing silk rosette dresses—in magenta, and a lovely smoky lilac—with romantic details at the back. But one missed the really wearable day clothes, often interpretations of classics, to which he usually gives a distinctive spin.