"Elegance is refusal," Diana Vreeland famously said. The legendary editor was the inspiration behind Balmain's latest collection, but in the end it channeled a lesser-known remark of Vreeland's: "Extravagance is my only reality." Under Olivier Rousteing, Balmain has re-embraced its couture opulence. For a sales-focused pre-fall offering, this one sure was loaded with details. There were minidresses pieced together from mosaics of brown leather lacquered to look like the Oriental screens in Vreeland's office; double-breasted blazers worn without pants that were cut from multicolor, metallic-shot jacquards; chiffon halter dresses in a burnished bamboo print; and more velvet, suede, and lamé than the editrix could wear in a year.

Rousteing made it all look modern with Balmain's trademark, sky-high hemlines and the boxy, masculine cut of his jackets. This time around the tailoring had a distinct Japanese look with obi belts, wrap closures, and sculptural, rounded sleeves. Pants could be second-skin tight, or loose and flowing in a directional sarouel style, which felt more Arabic. "I love to mix cultures—that's my thing," Rousteing said. His customers clearly feel likewise: It was the busiest showroom we've seen since pre-fall appointments started two months ago.