You could see traces of Donna Karan's travels in her spring show, from the vaguely ethnic "cracked earth" prints to the souvenir necklaces to the incense that perfumed the air with a faint woody scent. If New York's girl tribes were the starting point for her spirited DKNY show earlier this week, she had global ones on her mind for her signature collection. In the end, though, she didn't convey the same authority abroad as she did at home.

She started with promising wrap dresses, their plunging necklines a sexy counterpoint to the draped easiness of their silhouettes. It quickly became clear that comfort and ease would be Karan's operating principles. A caravan of smocks and caftans fell away from the body in billows of washed silk and chamois. Some had a youthful lightness—you'll see a certain sort of downtown girl wearing floaty tops like these with baggy shorts all next summer. But others, in floor-length black, had an almost witchy vibe.

In a season when "pretty" has become a buzzword, these clothes felt out of sync, and after the chic structure and sharp tailoring of her fall collection, it was a shame to see her go all shapeless. Karan knows the true path, of course, but this season she took a wrong step or two.