The large red cross on Kenneth Cole's T-shirt made it clear that he's a man with a hearty appetite for worthy causes. And his spring presentation was an equally unmistakable reminder of his penchant for dreadful puns: the invitation was a brown paper bag printed with the message "Practice safe sacks." What's more, Cole's message to the beleaguered survivors of Hurricane Katrina, flashed on-screen at the end of his opening video, was "We Stand Bayou."

Of course, it was coincidence that much of this collection suggested a languid life in steamy climes, but some in the audience couldn't help but reflect on the irony of the trousers ending above the ankle, also known as "floods." In fact, these highlighted the idea of abbreviation that was the essence of the show—or at least of the first section. Cole offered a jacket and shorts in taupe linen and flat-fronted linen trousers cut narrow enough for drainpipes. Jackets were shrunken, including a cropped, collarless leather number that cleaved to the torso. The croc lace-ups, worn sockless, underscored the pared-down vibe.

Then, in a schizo mood shift, Cole upped the volume, showing full, cuffed trousers with deep pleats—very much the male equivalent of the Dietrich-esque pants sported by his female models. The sensuous, earthy tones and midnight blues of the earlier outfits were replaced by a gray the designer called "smoke," which was airily appropriate for clothes this easeful: the sleeves of one voluminous shirt were caught up with tabs, and the formality of a suit was undercut by croc flip-flops.