The contemporary market is driven by youth. Buyers posit that women shopping the category typically want to look girlish, no matter their actual age. Wayne Lee, on the other hand, offers something more austere in a sea of poppy prints and sequins. Fall was informed by a trip to the Met, where she visited the museum’s just-closed costume exhibit Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire. “I’ve always been inspired by the 19th century,” she said at a showroom appointment. “It was about re-creating that moment in a Wayne way.”

High-neck silk blouses in navy and white were tipped in brown fur, and subtle godet bustles transformed tunic blouses and pencil skirts. Lee does well with outerwear: Standouts included a navy cotton sateen cargo-pocket jacket, again with fur trimming, as well as a black-and-white houndstooth padded bomber with navy ribbing at the hips and collar. The designer took that houndstooth and broke it up into single pieces to create an abstract print on an artfully draped white silk dress. She also used embroidery for the first time: A chain of daisies was sewn onto the collar of a snakeskin-print brocade tunic.

There is a wonky-ness to Lee’s point of view. A peach T-shirt printed with a “Thank You” shopping bag motif felt strange next to the rest of the collection, which was made up of sophisticated pieces like a tie-front wool gabardine blouse and a navy Crombie coat. Yet there is also something admirable in making serious clothes not look too serious. Lee used the word “fun” to describe a fur-dotted chiffon skirt. For those seeking something beyond the glitz of more traditional contemporary brands, Wayne might be it.

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