Practical urban streetwear—a welcome rarity in these polite ladylike days—made a powerful re-entry into fall as Nicolas Ghesquière showed a slew of the aviator jackets he does so well at Balenciaga. He used them to open his collection, bonding generous curly goat-hair shearling lapels onto cavalry twill and pairing them with a pleated drop-waist pant, with a voluminous leg tapered to the ankle. Casual top, mannish bottom: It made for a loosened-up progression of Balenciaga's signature attractions.

It got better still when Ghesquière delved, with his usual rigor, into the house archive ("For the first time, I've done it," he said) to retrieve Cristobal Balenciaga's gazar balloon skirt. Paired with yet more tiny, nipped-waist flying jackets or his signature shrunken knits, the contrast was unexpected, contemporary, cool. Handling retro in a modern way? That's a rarity, too.

Still, Ghesquière can never keep himself away from an eighties reference—whether that means a Mugler-esque suit or a filmy nylon windbreaker—and this season he went there again with a few sporty motocross-cum-flying-suit assemblages inspired by a book about early eighties New York graffiti artists. His B-Girls, however, were followed by a pair of short, fluted coat-dresses, one in tweed with scrolled lapels, the other double-breasted, in black. For all their complex construction, they were outstanding examples of drop-dead simple French chic, made relevant for a new generation.