After years in the service of others—he worked at Marc Jacobs and then as one of the designers at Tse—Chai finally broke out on his own this season, joining a calendar crowded with relative newcomers. But while many of his contemporaries sent out spring collections that seemed intended for artsy socialites, Chai worked a cool new angle with minimalist leanings.

He played crisp fabrics off soft—papery sateen, organza, and twill against gossamer voile and georgette—in a muted palette of gray, white, and light tan with bits of pale yellow and mint green. Chai kept shapes tailored close to the body, but never tight, and assembled the kind of outfits that might be worn by a low-key but hip gallery owner: boxy jackets with Claude Montana-worthy shoulders over silk boxers, a white bra top with a fluttery skirt, a bustier over a sheer knit top with a knee-length tulip skirt. Chai fumbled with some awkward kimono tops, but his narrow-cut trousers had an air of authority. In a season that sometimes verged on shrill femininity, Chai's quiet voice proved a refreshing alternative.