Shane Gabier and Chris Peters picked up a runner-up prize from the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund last November. The Chicago-based duo is no doubt getting advice from all sides now on how to turn their tiny label into a thriving bigger business. In a preview of their Fall collection they pointed to new pieces with more-accessible-than-usual price tags, like stripey mohair sweaters, silk slipdresses made in collaboration with Araks Yeramyan, and an A-line popover top in clashing prints (which, admittedly, was paired with a skirt made of expensive French brocade). But standing in the crowd today in the refectory of the Desmond Tutu Center in Chelsea (a stunning room), it was clear that they aren't compromising an inch on their unique, offbeat vision.

The collection, they explained, was inspired by The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, a seventeenth-century book by the Scottish Episcopalian minister Robert Kirk in which he collected his parishioners' tales of the supernatural. If there wasn't anything otherworldly, per se, about the clothes, there was certainly something dreamy about their construction. Cases in point: a white button-down blouse embroidered by Hand & Lock (Alexander McQueen's embroiderers, it turns out) with a quote from the fantasy classic The Last Unicorn. Or a trim blazer constructed from distressed leather and Lurex-shot striped wool with a heat transfer of multicolor Swarovski crystals on its back. Or a lace skirt dipped in silver. The overall feeling was folksy, but with a couture touch.

Perhaps not a recipe for surefire retail success, but Gabier and Peters might have something better: a finale gown made from tiers of pale blue chiffon and taffeta with a silver lace yoke that, should it land on the right starlet come Oscar night, could earn them more renown than that Fashion Fund win.