At his spring presentation, Tim Hamilton looked like the man in the gray flannel suit, with his big black shoes and nerdy glasses, sweating with nerves and heat. He was like a 21st-century apotheosis of Jack Lemmon, all clenched hair and eagerness to please. But the clothes sent a very different signal. Hamilton is 36. He grew up in Iowa. It's easy to imagine what the eighties meant to him. (Depeche Mode on the soundtrack was an aural aid.) The decade that style allegedly forgot is a huge trove of inspiration for people like Hamilton. He kept it clean with jolts of clear, primary color—the way a pair of red pants zapped out from under a glen plaid coat, for instance, or all the pieces in the particular shade of blue that will be forever New Wave. That era's energetic hedonism also seeped through in the sporty re-combinations of activewear and formalwear components. And one scarcely need mention the thrilling biker jacket in red leather.

But Hamilton is no mere nostalgist. His use of layering suggested a contemporary design signature. A hoodie would be laid over a jacket, or a white cardigan would bestride green. Hamilton ensured this proposition was friendly rather than formidable, and that's everything to do with the power of his own personality.