Christian Cota is smart. He opted out of the runway this season and went for the one-on-one, a tack he's been trying with his customers by talking to them at more trunk shows, with appreciable results. "For day, a woman told me she has to be able to throw what she's wearing on a chair and not worry about it," Cota said during our appointment. "I've really been keeping that in mind." Ease, versatility, value. These were Cota's bywords for Spring, and his succinct, 24-look collection offered plenty of all three.

For ease, there was a long, gauzy, silk chiffon dress in lemon with an undulating, hand-dyed hem. For versatility, one could take apart any of the matching skirt-and-top combinations, like a black draped top and floor-skimming slit skirt in curve-hugging washed cupro. Belted, the look passes for a smart-sexy dress; worn as separates, the pieces would pair with your favorite basics. As for value, Cota's latest collaboration with Aldo translates his saturated prints into killer—and retail-friendly—platforms and pumps. About those prints: Cota's digital graphics have long been collection highlights, and this season he wisely focused his efforts on them. Inspired by the deep sea, he colored hundreds of anemones separately on a flared stretch cotton dress and sent bursts of aqua luminescence scuttling through a satin pencil skirt.

In May, Cota will move into his new studio space as part of the CFDA's Fashion Incubator program. By then, if he continues listening to his clients and maintains a laser-sharp focus, he'll be hatching plenty of new ideas.