"I wanted to go back to classic ideals of Parisian elegance," said Julien Macdonald before his debut at Givenchy. "Everyone remembers Hubert de Givenchy's distinctive brand of sophistication." Macdonald's mission is to establish a new, commercially viable identity for the famed house while maintaining a spiritual link to its illustrious past.

The Welsh-born designer took his first, if at times overly cautious, steps in that direction by tackling some Givenchy classics, mostly in black. A sheer, ample-sleeved Bettina blouse (named after Bettina Graziani, Hubert's model and muse of the late '50s) was paired with a high-waisted leather skirt that swept the catwalk with its generous train; a pale-gray velvet coat was embroidered with sheared mink and crystal beads; and a tulip skirt got a twety-first-century makeover when worn with a muslin shirt and cigarette pants.

Macdonald indulged his ongoing love affair with fashion's more dramatic side with several formfitting, Hollywood-ready gowns that shimmied down to a cascade of feathers or a shredded hem. A curious eye-popper came in the form of an extensively ruffled skirt worn with a transparent net top that fully revealed model Shalom Harlow's torso but obscured her face.

Givenchy would benefit from a touch that was both more assertive and light-handed. It will be interesting to see how Macdonald responds to that challenge as he settles into his new job.