However he got there—and we'll get to that later—Hussein Chalayan's spring collection demonstrated his extraordinary instinct for putting his clothes in the forefront of fashion. This season, without tripping on any conceptual stumbling blocks, Chalayan proved he belongs in the top tier of designers (including Jil Sander and Helmut Lang) who are formulating a breezy, easy-to-wear spring. That proposition includes man-tailored jackets, crisp blue-and-white pinstripe shirting, shorts, and soft, drifty dresses—and none of it has anything to do with ladylike retro.

Chalayan opened his show with a couple of sporty suits: a modernist tuxedo jacket over a vest and two-tiered skirt, and a pinstriped, softly bloused vest and cropped pants. From there, he made yet more attractively pragmatic pieces—lightweight raincoats and a hoodie cut from gray linen, worn with one of the best-cut pairs of slouchy, cuffed shorts seen this season.

Things got even more interesting when Chalayan brought in the striped cotton as simple shirttail dresses and little one-strap pinafore dresses worn under similarly patterned shirts. Then he transferred the pattern onto a loose (and surprisingly sexy) blue-and-white slinky knitted cardigan dress. By the time the lightweight coats, distinctly akin to men's dressing gowns, turned up, Chalayan's seasonal subtext had begun to emerge.

"I wanted to design as if I were a blind person," he explained later. "And the only way I could imagine what it's like is to think of what you see when you're asleep and dreaming." That accounted for the sleepwear, and also made some sense of the jumbled-up blue-and-orange prints of monsters and exotic birds that appeared on asymmetric chiffon dresses. Chalayan had a story for them, too: "I blindfolded myself and drew at random, and then manipulated the shapes to make the dresses." Does knowing its origin add anything profound to the collection? Maybe… maybe not. As with everything else, the true test of a collection isn't in the symbolism, but in the sheer, delightful want-ability. And there Chalayan passed, with honors.