Copper-haired and milk-pale, British actress Tilda Swinton appeared at Viktor & & Rolf in a slightly different role from her usual turn. As designer muse, Swinton strolled down the runway in a black pantsuit with a deep, swooping curve of a collar to the soundtrack of her own cut-glass voice advising, “Follow your own path.” That was the opening scene of a return performance of the Dutch double-act's finest ideas, distilled over a decade. "It's our tenth anniversary already," said Viktor Horsting. "We wanted to do all our signatures, with the menswear and the couture influences, for an ageless modern woman."

By focusing on dressing Tilda—an army of Tildas, in fact—the collection elegantly bridged the divide between high concept and wearability. Every model was made over as a Swinton clone, then put into revisited versions of the white shirts, jeans, tailoring, bourgeois dresses and exploding multilayer shapes that have marked Viktor & Rolf's greatest hits.

The calmed-down experimentalism panned out into an exceptional kind of refinement, perfectly in sync with the current mood. Face-framing lapels and collars (a look of the season) were set into everything from jean jackets to parkas and mannish shirts. Pewter and black satin shirtdresses with slashed sleeves, ribbed trapunto collars, shoulder patches and zip-up pockets walked a delicate line between ladylike and hip. A quiet gray chiffon column over a brown T-shirt, tethered with a slim leather belt, was one of the coolest notions of evening dress for fall.

Scattered among these were incredible attention grabbers. Pushing layering and falling-off-the-shoulder to their conceptual limits, Viktor & Rolf made outfits with five shirt collars peeling back, one atop the other. One girl appeared with eight men's jackets stacked on her shoulders. A giant, inflated silk-moiré bubble acted as a bolero–cum–down jacket on another. These were all insider references to the body of work the avant-garde pair has amassed up to now. The excitement was seeing how they channeled all that originality into the real world.