09/06/2012 02:03 EDT | Updated 11/06/2012 05:12 EST

Richard Chai brings a sporty style and softer palette to NY Fashion Week

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The Richard Chai Love collection helped set the tone for spring at opening day of New York Fashion Week on Thursday — and toned we'll need to be to wear Chai's clothes.

His sporty styles in a soothing palette of blues and tans that one might find at the seashore featured more than a few bare midriffs.

"Apparently, what we'll all want are shorts, anoraks, halters and flat abs," said Melissa Liebling-Goldberg, editorial director of womenswear for Gilt Groupe. She was among the retailers, editors and stylists to begin eight days of previews of next season's runway looks.

Chai favoured a light touch even if he piled on a few layers: The first model out wore a sheer, shiny cotton-nylon parka with a silk-nylon floral dress with bra-style halter top and flared A-line skirt. For men, Chai offered a crinkled cotton jacket and trouser with a zip-front shirt.

There was also a men's two-tone, double-breasted blazer in contrasting fabrics that might be a hint of a possible yin-yang vibe emerging at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents at Lincoln Center. One could also feel it in the jersey dresses that still had definitive blocks of colour but with softer curves than the geometric lines that usually comes with traditional colorblocking.

On the flashier side, the finale showed a series of women's dresses with a metallic sheen and hologram embroidery around the bodice, almost as if they were rounds of ammunition for a late night on the town.

Chai also played with some utilitarian silhouettes, including carpenter pants, apron dresses and cargo-style vests, but more likely to make a splash were his more feminine flounced skirts and dresses, along with a floral pattern so graphic it mimicked the texture of crocodile skin.

The softer styles and muted colours that populated this runway are easier for most women to wear than the bold, neon trend of this past spring, said Liebling-Goldberg. "It's refreshing to see things more feminine. The neon was aggressive."