"It's just about optimal summer," said a relaxed Helmut Lang backstage before his show. "You'll see sailor elements, and ropes and knots. But you know, we're never literal." Right enough: The collection had a tangential relationship to nautical style, without going overboard.

The first impression to come across was one of lightness—in the plain striped canvas ticking and shirting fabrics that Lang cut into jackets, belted coats, narrow pants, and shift dresses. Beyond that were his signature personal twists. A blue-and-white cotton shirt-striped dress came with a swooping neckline and a folded-back detail, buttoned like matelot pants in the skirt. Jackets were cut short, and shaped like a midshipman's uniform—the best, in navy, had a sailor collar and was worn with a trailing asymmetric white jersey tank and chinos.

And the ropes and knots? There were gorgeous platform espadrilles in tan, black, and white; twists and knots of fabric were worked into short dresses, suspended or draped across the body like abstract garlands; and evening decoration included string-and-pearl harnesses.

True to the designer's promise, nothing in this collection was overly themey. But elegance and simplicity are the strongest points of Lang's aesthetic, and those are the qualities that looked most compelling in this collection.