For Michelle Obama watchers, Narciso Rodriguez's Fall show started auspiciously. The khaki color of the first wool twill coat that came down the runway and the fitted jacket and legging pant that followed it echoed the ensemble he created for our First Lady to wear on inauguration weekend. But anybody who came hoping to see some sort of White House wardrobe left disappointed. Rodriguez is too subtle and savvy a designer for something like that.

The show marked his return to the Bryant Park tents, where he hadn't been on the schedule since 2005 (in between, he helped pioneer Chelsea as a fashion week scene). People who've followed his career will have observed the reappearance of one or two motifs, starting with the sporty, scubalike detailing of a black hooded knit bodysuit worn with an equally clingy skirt. Fall also found him continuing to experiment with bold color. This season it's highlighter yellow and pink—somewhat challenging shades, but certainly timely—in stretch knit dresses with graphic cutouts or in silk overlaid with black lace. Even more unexpected were the black and white camouflage pieces accessorized with storm-trooper hats with slits for the models' eyes. As comments about the dangerous times we're living in, they made a sort of sense, even if they didn't really jibe with an aesthetic that is, above all, about cool, graphic minimalism.

Rodriguez and his investors at Liz Claiborne parted ways last October; losing your backing, especially in a market like this, is no doubt a source of distraction. Perhaps because of that, this collection didn't quite have the wow factor of his recent outings.