A glass wind-tunnel corridor bridging a snow-covered wasteland: that was the bleak techno-meets-nature setting for Alexander McQueen’s mind trip for fall. "I wanted it to be like a nomadic journey across the tundra," he said. "A big, desolate space, so that nothing would distract from the work."

The clothes, sculpted into his signature nip-waisted, stiff A-line skirt silhouettes, exhibited all the intense craft and some of the shapes that he learned during his stint at Givenchy couture. It bumped his ready-to-wear up to a new level, and if the plot—which traveled through Eurasian ethnic into punk and on to motocross—wasn't all that understandable, the decorative impact made up for it.

Fantastic details were lavished on dramatic structured carapaces, embroidered, painted and mind-blowingly embellished to look like antique samurai armor, Russian lacquered dolls and tribal ceremonial dress. Somewhere along the line, the stiff pleated skirts segued into molded suits, done in jigsaws of two-tone checkerboard—the better to show off the designer’s devilishly accurate cutting skills.

McQueen can’t resist some theatrics: he sent two models into the wind tunnel, one wearing a skintight leather suit harnessed to a billowing parachute, the other dragging a 20-foot kimono into the eye of the fake snowstorm. Still, the moments that made the audience catch its breath were those that betrayed McQueen's softer, more romantic side. One was a jacket constructed of white tulle pom-poms that looked like a bubble of snowballs. The other was the prettiest dress in the show: pale gray chiffon cut in an empire shape, embroidered with sequins and worn by Natalia Vodianova with the brightest red ruched over-the-knee boots.