Mona Kowalska launched A Détacher out of her Nolita shop of the same name in 1998, and for about ten years the buzz on her brand was so quiet it could be mistaken for silence. But if you listened closely to the right people, like the stylists and editors who frequented her store, you could just make out the news that Kowalska—who used to head the design studio at Sonia Rykiel—was up to something pretty interesting. Recently, the volume of the buzz began to rise: Trendsetting stores such as Assembly and Creatures of Comfort picked up the line, and more and more hip girls could be eyeballed wearing it (thanks in part to the brand's identifiably weird prints).

It's not clear which way Kowalska prefers things. Defiantly un-trendy, but often obliquely on target, she is clearly obsessed with the craftwork that goes into her clothes. A few seasons ago, for instance, she wove otherworldly coats out of knots of medical gauze, and this season she played a similar trick with lace ribbon. Sell-through doesn't drive her; witness her successful range of shoes, to which she adds styles at a glacial pace. And even in an industry where any reference is fair game, the inspirations this designer seizes on seem downright prickly. Spring 2011, she said, was inspired by neurosis.

Well, even if Kowalska's not going out looking for it, more success is going to find her. Though it occasionally veered too far into construction experiments, the Spring show was thick with punchy, accessible clothes—loose jumpsuits of poplin and silk, electric intarsia knits, curve-skimming pencil skirts. Prints, as usual, were key: The best were a blown-out check digitally printed on silk, a black fabric irregularly splotched with cream, and nude materials zapped by silver spears.

One of Kowalska's less-convincing extrapolations of her big construction idea involved weighting down gossamer silk dresses with panels of heavy linen. But then again, denying her the right to toy with big ideas would deprive her of the opportunity to create pieces like the aforementioned lace ribbon tops and dresses. Beautiful from afar, the hand-loomed lace ribbon was mind-blowing up close. And that, you suspect, is how she really wants her clothes to be experienced. For all the noisy patterns, A Détacher is a quiet brand. You have to lean in to learn its secrets.