With Spike Lee, Harvey Weinstein, and Axl Rose watching from the front row, John Galliano presented his Dior cruise collection in New York City for the first time Tuesday night. And if there was any confusion about the newfound importance of this once-insignificant season, the celebrities, the pink champagne, and the sweeping views of 57th Street through the glass walls of the LVMH Tower Magic Room—not to mention the posh private dinner at the Four Seasons that followed—dispelled it. "We're pressured by our customers to show more and more in advance, because of our success here in the U.S.," said LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault post show. "John responded with a mix of creativity and modernity."

In this case, modernity unequivocally meant wearability. The models' cropped, punkish wigs notwithstanding, the runway theatrics Galliano regularly produces for Dior's couture and ready-to-wear shows were replaced here by a lineup of clean, easy pieces cut in innovative fabrics. Pea jackets and trenches came in laminated cottons, while skirts—pleated or pencil—and sexy, super-skinny pants were shown in metallic linens that caught the light. A fur made from strips of mink spliced with net and paillettes topped a cocktail dress, the hem of which was edged with sequins that echoed the skyline silhouetted outside.

Where separates were mostly pared-down, evening numbers featured elaborate cuts and draping. Paradoxically, the latter had the more relaxed effect. One chiffon frock was suspended from a single brushed-metal shoulder strap that also appeared as bracelets on clutch bags, and a lamé minidress complete with a built-in hoodie seemed designed for Dior's youngest followers. For those hungering after a flash of Galliano's signature extravagance, it came at the finale: a pale mint deshabille gown of chiffon and taffeta that billowed like the most exuberant of his couture creations.