Perhaps in response to accusations of vulgarity and of too much overlap with his own disco-fabulous London collection, Julien Macdonald chose to go back to basics at Givenchy Couture. Working with the two mainstays of the house’s heritage—the memory of Audrey Hepburn and a reputation for suits—the designer emphasized daywear (something that has evaporated from many couture collections) and made overt references to Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the program notes.

Giving a certain customer what she wants is also an aim of Macdonald, and that means clothes that don’t flash too much flesh. The skirt suits were done up in black, high at the neck or with big, face-framing collars, and with sufficient decoration—like overlays of lace or hand-pleating—to distinguish them from ready-to-wear. What made them more Macdonald than Hubert was the fierce form-hugging silhouette, a sign of a sensibility that leans toward eighties influences rather than fifties discretion. He gestured toward a more extravagant glamour in his L’Interdit leopard-print fur coat (a reference to the classic Givenchy perfume), thrown over a dark-brown satin dress. And among his reworkings of little black Audrey-esque pieces for cocktail hour, the designer came up with a flamenco dress with matching matador jacket, trimmed with bobbles, in a style that catches the Paris trend.

Though the collection missed the lightness and color that’s emerging elsewhere, it showed Macdonald on his best behavior, making an effort to show off what the house can do with couture fabrics and handwork, yet within safely defined parameters. He threw caution to the wind only once, when a giant gown of iridescent ruffled cellophane blew along the runway, the sole reminder of the identity he normally saves for his London viewers.