This evening's Christian Wijnants
show left you with a sense of gnawing dissatisfaction. Not because he lacks for ideas or talent, but rather because he patently has the goods, and this seemed a missed opportunity for a breakthrough collection. Wijnants' concept was rich: He was paying homage to the Islamic women in Somalia who play basketball, in transgression of religious custom and at risk to their own lives. And the designer took the right elements from that reference, mixing up traditional African prints and sport-influenced silhouettes and graphics, and elaborating a more abstract theme involving concealment and exposure. That resulted in a clutch of very strong pieces: His drooped basketball shorts are among the cooler looks to appear thus far on a catwalk for Spring, and his sheer printed dresses and anoraks had a real poetry. But the looks never properly cohered. It was hard to figure out exactly how Wijnants was getting in his own way. The styling was an issue, frankly, and he almost completely eschewed his signature technical knits, which was something akin to making a collection with one hand tied behind his back. (Such is Wijnants' way with knitwear that he was, just last season, awarded the Woolmark Prize as a result of it.) Both those qualms are rather easily addressed. The bigger issue may be that Wijnants has yet to summon the nerve to meet his formidable potential. Last season was a more coherent and, in some ways, ambitious outing. But given this designer's keen intellectual gifts and his remarkable technical prowess, you really have to demand he keep pushing.