"Controlled exuberance" were Derek Lam's buzzwords backstage. Expanding on what inspired him, he cited Isak Dinesen and her lifelong struggle to resolve the contradictions between her family's bourgeois values and her own, more adventurous, spirit. That's a lot of meaning to load into a collection, but Lam gave it his best shot. The control was in the rigorous tailoring: a dramatic, sweeping duster coat; a sexy herringbone corset worn with a narrow gray tweed skirt; and a rethought three-piece suit, consisting of a trench, double-breasted riding jacket, and stovepipe trousers, all in a taupe wool tweed. As for the exuberance, it could be seen in a red and ivory floral chiné-print sack dress and in a black tulle sequined-and-feathered spaghetti-strap frock.

There were moments where Lam's two-sided equation really added up—a casually chic combination of a gold lace dress and a boxy brown leather jacket, for example. As a whole, though, the concept never quite jelled. Still, the show ended on a lovely note. Lam has always had a way with gowns, and this season was no exception. A pair of draped numbers, in midnight and black velvet with ivory pleated crinolines swishing at their hems, said soigné; the two silk gazar dresses gave us sculptural. Here, at least, the designer was fully in control.