Richard Chai has a love of ideas—an intellectualism, you might say, a taste for a complicated backstory—that has sometimes marginalized him in this city. But he's learning how to channel his energies (as well as his slightly obsessive nature) into clothes that are truly special.

The Spring collection was chic and ethereal and brimming with colorful prints, a "joyous" (his word) journey toward the light after a dark-edged Fall outing. Chai began on a masculine note that echoed the cool layered-jacket-and-slouchy-pant silhouette of last season. This time, a sharp ivory sleeveless jacket was worn over a creamy embroidered tank and linen trousers.

He's always had a knack for the sporty and boyish, of course—what was remarkable here was the buoyant femininity that followed. You didn't need an elaborate explanation to understand a lovely bell-sleeve dress of distressed sequins with winking hints of contrasting thread. With Bryant Park days blurring together and one runway outing sometimes seeming like an echo of another you've just seen, Chai's unique voice is beginning to ring out in the crowd.