Impeccable refinement, polish, discretion. We know Ralph Rucci holds all three close to his heart. His ultra precious clothes evoke a meeting of Asia and the Upper East Side in their double-faced, deeply expensive geometries and textures. And there’s something almost sacramental about Rucci’s handling of haute couture’s mysteriously named materials: “silk gros de longres,” “nun’s veiling,” and “paper-silk-cigaline.” The same goes for his reverential approach to the woman he dresses, a creature of untouchable cultivation who controls her destiny in ensembles of subtle, deluxe sportswear.

Sometimes, though, you just want Rucci to let rip a bit (as hard as that may be for a designer inspired by the tortuous ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony). His clothes actually seem more modern when he appears to relinquish a little control, as he did in the opening outfit, where a shredded chiffon cravat, tied under a sable cardigan, showed that a touch of distress can be good. Likewise, latticework leather embroidery gave a swing jacket a worthwhile sense of edge.

In his way, the designer managed to keep step with the trends. An abstract idea of armor plating came through in the inserts of leather samaurai-style basketwork on coats and skirts. One fluted, double-faced dress, with slivers of gazar cut into the bodice, looked almost space-age (another favorite theme on planet fashion right now). But Rucci’s best moment was a dress made of a closely constructed, strappy alligator top that broke out in layers of tattered-edge chiffon. It was the youngest and sexiest thing he’s shown in Paris so far.