David Neville and Marcus Wainwright are coming off a super-successful season. Their Fall collection was as directional as it was wearable, a hit with editors and buyers alike, and this summer saw them open a new store on Houston Street stocked with their nicely priced not-so-basic basics. No surprise, then, that they were eager, as Wainwright said before the show, to push themselves again. But this time they didn't quite find that sweet spot as reliably as usual.

The show started promisingly with a tailored pantsuit (a Rag & Bone specialty) in white broderie anglaise, the sweetness of which was undercut by a harness bra, part of a collaboration with Jean Yu. And other comparatively simple looks followed, including a black blazer worn with a pair of skirts—one chiffon, the other suede—and a boudoir-ish nude and black long slipdress cheekily accessorized with a sporty backpack.

Their use of futuristic, military-grade fabrics was compelling (one of the line's starting points, Wainwright said, was pics of his father and grandfather in their military uniforms). But a number of looks were over-styled (an openwork crochet tunic over a sheer tunic in a colorful print, over a contrasting skirt) or left the models overexposed. A see-through top doesn't make a cup-less bra safe for work or the club.

Even as Neville and Wainwright have stretched themselves each season, the appeal of this brand has been how strongly tethered to reality it remains, how much it reflects what the cool girls want to look like on their best day. Not enough of this collection met the bar they've set for themselves.