Let other designers focus on wardrobe basics; at Balenciaga, it's fashion with a capital F. Working with ideas that could be mundane in other hands—volume, sports, menswear—Nicolas Ghesquière has turned out the boldest pre-fall collection we've seen so far. Jackets and coats, some printed with palm tree or geyser motifs, have Cristobal Balenciaga's signature curving, egg-shaped backs. Sweatshirts are made from jersey fused to high-tech foam and paired with double-layer minis, while smock tops are cut in windbreaker nylon and worn with track pants in wool jacquard. As for the masculine influence, it can be traced in the sloping, oversize shoulders of a jacket laser-cut above the waist.

But color, such a strong theme this season, was the first thing you noticed at the label's New York presentation. The models wore towering platforms inspired by the French industrial designer Charlotte Perriand and patchworked together from swatches of bright leather, metal, and wood. On their legs, meanwhile, were yellow, red, or green tights spliced vertically with opaque and sheer sections. Yes, the hosiery will be for sale, and for a very nice, under-$100 price.