Maybe it has to do with the winter New York has been enduring, but many designers seem to have a serious case of wanderlust this season. Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs are among them. For Fall, the idea of "a sexy vagabond," inspired by a road trip from L.A. to Vegas the pair took for Michelle's birthday, was their departure point. A few days before their show, the designers described their nomad in the usual terms—someone who picks things up and adds to her wardrobe along the way—but there was nothing transient or unpremeditated in the subsequent collection.

Their slicked-back buns adorned with single feathers, the models betrayed the more potent influence behind this outing: native tribes from the American West. Thigh-highs rimmed with goat hair appeared under almost every dress, creating an illusion of fringe on the pieces that didn't already come with the stuff. Elastic boning—think thin strips of fabric crisscrossing the back or side of the body—had its origins in elaborate Native American body jewelry; here it made for sexy, organic cutouts on superbly tailored dresses in molten stretch moiré or rich wool crepe. A felt cropped bomber jacket in deep olive represented a new focus on outerwear.

While silhouettes still hugged curves, this pair has moved solidly away from the body-con label it wore in its earliest days. The predominant pant shape was slim to the ankle, where it blossomed out a touch; it was flattering, fresh, and eminently wearable. Dresses and blouses, for their part, were sharp and structured in the front, with angular necklines, but rounded in the back, with swooping one-shouldered lines following the curve of the neck. It made for a nice duality, and an almost winking admission: We're not all black leather and grit, it seemed to say.