Free advice to off-schedule designers who want to get an overextended, appointment-crazed Paris audience on their side: Start on time and get it over with quickly. Slapped wrists to Martin Grant for breaking the code, thereby filling the room with irritation before he'd even started. As a civilian lady invitee whispered, after looking at watch for the fifteenth time, "Is this normal?"

Part of the charm of the grown-up, well-considered clothes Martin Grant designs from his workshop in the Marais is the small-scale immediacy of what he does. His followers expect an elegant seasonal shortcut into the kind of classic style that looks youthful (but rich) at any age. Some of that came over in his signature coats, done just so in a single-breasted pony version trimmed with leather, a narrow-waisted black Lurex evening trench, or three-quarter-length fifties tweed. This season, though, a heavy-sense-of-fashion theme made the magic evaporate.

Grant started with a belted cape-dress, proceeded to a coat-dress with capelet shoulders and a black-and-white tweed trench with the same cut, and followed that with tight black-and-pink brocade tweed cocktail dresses with a light hint of Suzie Wong. (Grant explained he'd been watching "old Japanese gangster movies and Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express.") But all the lightness and color Grant captured in his last collection, and which fashion is craving this season, somehow eluded him. As a matter of fact, he isn't a designer who suffers from pretentiousness, but the couturelike surroundings he chose and the agonizing repetitiousness of this show almost made it seem so.