There was a romantic sense of lightness to Connor McKnight’s collection this season. It was as if someone had opened the window at his studio to let a morning winter breeze in and billow through every piece.

Last season, McKnight ruminated on the idea of waiting. He had been anticipating the inauguration of his new studio in Chinatown, and spoke of things coming together for his brand and of arriving in the city as a designer. It’s no wonder that, after opening up his doors, literally and figuratively, to the industry and his customers, this time around he reflected on the feeling of vulnerability.

But does McKnight feel vulnerable? Not exactly. “I find and follow these emotional themes every season,” he said at a preview, “and I feel like autumn and winter are an introspective time.” The way he put it is, in the summertime you’re outside doing “a bit of everything”—and often doing too much—and in the fall you retract back in for a time of introspection.

McKnight is a deft technical designer who makes deceivingly simple clothes. He has a good eye for merging utility with sophistication in his cut and fabrications. But he is also an emotional and empathetic designer who thinks and feels his way through making clothes. How he was able to capture the idea of vulnerability here without becoming literal or overly esoteric was through a conspicuous but instinctual sense of layering. Weightless crinkled silk tops, paperweight cotton skirts, and swishy nylon mid layers were put together under hefty alpaca and cashmere tailoring (the latter of made with the legendary NYC tailor Martin Greenfield).

While the way McKnight merges utilitarian details with the most subdued and quintessential pieces in a wardrobe continues to be a highlight in his collections—wool overcoats and ’70s house dresses featured bungee cord fasteners hidden in plain sight at the waist and cuffs—it was his approach to cutting the lightest of styles that was particularly spellbinding this season. Take a simple silk chiffon slip dress with an “infinity” slip that buttoned all the way to the neckline. It doesn’t get more vulnerable than that.

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