After several seasons of doing runway shows, Tess Giberson returned to a presentation format today, the better to indulge her arty side. The atmosphere in Giberson's studio at Pier 59 was rather intense—there was a ululating soundtrack, the result of a collaboration between Giberson and the performance artist Sahra Motalebi—and at irregular intervals, a few of the musicians that Giberson had cast as models would strike wooden blocks as they stared, glassy-eyed, into the crowd. There might as well have been a sign posted on the door: "Warning: This Collection Must be Taken Seriously."

Well, hmm. It feels uncharitable to accuse Giberson of pretension—she emerged in an era of downtown New York fashion when artistic aspiration wasn't so vanishingly rare as it is now, and it's nice that she wanted to resurrect that spirit. And in the meantime, her recent collections have been very, very grounded. But the issue this time out was that Giberson's collection seemed to suffer from a surfeit of what I'll call "art thinking," and a deficit of "fashion thinking." Art values process. Fashion values the end result of process, i.e., product. So from the moment Giberson decided that the theme of her collection was "Evolution," and that the clothes would be a kind of procedural showing the development and adaptation of her ideas, she committed herself to art thinking. There were a lot of nice pieces here—and a few terrific ones, like the patchwork leggings, and a split-back blazer with a tonal floral print, or the draped black wool coat with multicolored hand-knit sleeves—but the collection as a whole proved less than coherent. Which is ironic, given that Giberson's intention was to elucidate the connections between her pieces. But that's art thinking for you. Fashion thinkers, at their smartest, know when to cut the looks that got them to the places they eventually realized they were going.