Beset by well-wishers at his packed presentation at The Standard Hotel, Christian Cota took a minute to display a by-product of his labors: his hands, which bore a faint but distinct black tint. "I've been painting and dyeing fabrics all week," he explained cheerfully. Cota, who likes to get down and dirty in the design process, gave himself plenty of opportunities to play this time around. Inspired by the textiles and handicrafts of his native Mexico, the designer created a polished, exuberant collection featuring 13 original prints and embroideries—all riffs on indigenous graphics—jumbled up on draped cocktail dresses and slinky silk pants.

This explicit focus on prints, long a signature of his, marked a return to Cota's creative roots as well. And he approached them with a new sophistication. To make sure the colors of the embroideries—handcrafted by a women's collective in Mexico—popped, he went over the threads with a paintbrush. (This explains the stained hands.) The print-on-print trend appears to be sticking around, and Cota's use of texturally rich embellishments ensures these pieces will stand out. There was a definite confidence to this collection, something that has been lacking from his work in the past. "I wanted to do what I love," Cota said of this season's approach, "even if it's a risk." Risk rewarded.