When women come to the couture shows, they are seeking not just beautiful clothes, but a taste of a different, dream-like world. Christian Lacroix more than satisfied those desires, taking his audience on a trip into a fantasy universe where models became surreal, mysterious creatures—decorated, bejeweled, veiled and topped off with towering headdresses.

That was just for starters. Which other designer could handle vermilion, scarlet, tangerine, purple, shocking pink, turquoise, tweed, embossed velvet, lamé, duchesse satin, chiffon, sequins, beading, patchwork and colored fur without ever losing control? For Winter 2002, the particular fascination was in seeing Lacroix's long-established signatures, like corseting, matador influences and a taste for the 18th century, being softened up and deconstructed.

Amid the grandeur of the highly embellished materials and puffed-up volumes, Lacroix added a few sporty pieces, like a fur sweatshirt, a satin parka or combat pants done in silver or gold. It was a touch that brought the unreal tantalizingly within reach of mere mortals. But then it was back to the fantastic extremes: a black-checked lamé pantsuit, made hip with a little wrapped lace and broderie anglaise overskirt, or a violet ruffled satin floor-length gown. For these alone, not to mention the 20-minute transportation into another world, the magical mind of Christian Lacroix deserves haute couture’s highest accolades.