Creatures of the Wind's Shane Gabier and Chris Peters are at a crossroads. For a young brand like theirs to grow, they need to address the commercial marketplace, to sell clothes. On the other hand, they don't want to lose the outsider, punk sensibility that garnered them all this attention in the first place.

That tension played out in their Fall collection today. They called it Candy, and beforehand they said they liked the appeal of something plastic and unreal, partly in response to the artisanal folksiness of last season. To achieve that, they chose artificial-feeling fabrics like a glossy poly film, and vinyl, rather than leather. The shiny stripes were a new development from Swarovski: practically microscopic shards of crystals affixed to bands of tape. An artist friend, Aline Cautis, hand-painted the graffiti swirls on vinyl T-shirts. Artsy till the end.

At the same time, they called the collection an exercise in restraint. "We're hoping that people will be able to see themselves in the clothes." Quirky materials and their penchant for collage aside, the silhouettes were quite straightforward: masculine and sporty in the case of button-front smocks with stripes at the shoulders accompanied by tapered pants, or almost sculptural in the case of boyish, away-from-the-body jackets, but never complicated. The shape that recurred most often was a drop-waist A-line shift; it looked particularly fetching in a patchwork of white and orange vinyl and a jacquard they said was influenced by Ettore Sottsass' early color studies.

So where did these dueling impulses—for the unreal and the real—net them? When designers decide to mainstream themselves, they run the risk of looking like everybody else. There's already something in the air this week about menswear and uniform dressing. But if it lost some of the uniqueness that makes CotW special, it was also easily their most polished and sellable collection yet.