Observing Rad Hourani over the course of several seasons, you start to feel a bit like you've tagged along to a concert by Fennesz, or some other impossibly hip, minimalist glitch-techno wizard. You're witnessing something incredibly innovative and unbelievably well wrought, but it's so rigorous and rarefied that the experience is almost airless. At some point, you want to rush the stage and yell, "It's just music! Have some fun!"

Backstage before the show, Hourani claimed that his new collection reflects the happy place he's at in his life, and that its fugue of blues was an homage to that. "Water and sky," he mused. "The relaxing feeling of blue in nature." Maybe Hourani was having fun. But his commitment to the modus operandi of building each collection off six interchangeable pieces, and his fealty to the unisex and one long, narrow silhouette, makes it difficult to read pleasure into his clothes. Though Hourani sent out some interesting-looking sculpted vest tops and dresses, this collection walked back some of the freedom of shape he explored last time out. And while the addition of cotton shirting and denim was welcome this season, the new stuff lacked the sense of warmth that made his Fall clothes so appealing.

You can't help feeling that Hourani, a very good designer, would be an even better one if he broke free of his self-imposed formula.