For Spring, Richard Chai flipped the script on the typical fashion strategy of putting your flashy best on the runway while keeping those more subtle, plain-Jane pieces at the showroom for buyers' eyes only. "All the prints, the embellishment, the embroidery, all of those things are still in the collection," said Chai, speaking at his studio the day before his clothes hit the catwalk. "But what I'm showing on the runway is not that." That might sound counterintuitive, but the approach has its benefits. When you're not distracted by the sparkle of a sequin, your eye can focus on form—and form was definitely the story chez Chai this season.

The look could be described as chic urban nomad—all fluid layers built on a foundation of Chaplin-esque trousers, long and full Martha Graham-inspired skirts, flared culottes, and palazzo pants. Chai called the palette of nudes, grays, and blues "super-neutral," and in lieu of color, he created interest by playing with transparency in sheer-backed tops and by layering nylon body stockings throughout. The effect was a ghostly deconstruction, but that liquid element was grounded by sporty-sexy bandeau tops and tailoring in the form of elongating blazers and trenches in weathered-looking technical fabrics.

There might have been nary a sequin in sight, but the combination of transparency and layering did push the look in a fashion-y direction. Yet Chai insisted that, when dissected, the collection was full of simply great pieces to wear. "It's an amazing trenchcoat, an amazing T-shirt—that's the premise of Love," he said. The trick, of course, is to lend those items a fresh point of view, and happily, Chai continues to stand out in the same-y contemporary world.