What with her 3-D fashion films and online innovations, Norma Kamali's lens seems to be perpetually focused on be the future, or at least the leading edge of the present. So it was surprising to hear the designer cite 1939 as the spark for her Fall collection. The year, she explained, had a particularly forward-looking spirit, perhaps best crystallized in the World's Fair. Its slogan? "Dawn of the New Day."

There were shades of Marlene Dietrich—a frequent name-check this week—in jersey siren gowns and a natty sharp-shouldered, wide-leg jumpsuit. Kamali's usual pop of black-and-white came in an oversize houndstooth (adorable in a lean midi dress) and a sweet polka-dotted boiled wool (in a belted coat as soft as a sweater). A body-con black dress with diamond cutouts running up the sides is something you could see a cool girl like Giovanna Battaglia picking up; the same for a tricolor faux fur chubby, which was just beastly good fun.

There's always a sense with Kamali that you've seen these clothes before. (Working a forties-era reference into clothes rooted in the eighties isn't much of a leap.) But wowing the fashion set with a new vision every season has never been her priority. Start the designer talking and she's got a million things to say about making women's lives better, whether it's through her Wellness Café or her new nice-price venture KamaliKulture, which sells basics from swimwear to skirt suits, all under $100. It's all sold online and not just for a limited time. New days indeed.