If there's one thing the fashion crowd can't be accused of it's an absence of optimism, even in the face of discouraging experience. That, plus a phalanx of heavy security, explains the mob scene outside the entrance to Givenchy, where the ever hopeful assembled to view the first couture collection of a virtual unknown, Riccardo Tisci.

After showing his second ready-to-wear collection, last season in Milan, the young Italian, who was educated at Central Saint Martins in London, has become the fourth designer (after John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, and Julien Macdonald) to join the house since Hubert de Givenchy retired in 1995. What he brings to the job is a reputation for a vaguely goth look and a lot of support from the model Mariacarla Boscono and her gang of leggy friends—the sort of credit that plays well on the fashion-jungle telegraph.

Tisci's audience was invited to look in on live tableaux of groups of his clothes, arranged in various rooms of the House. From what was visible, he took the lanky, drifty silhouettes of his last show, treated them to a couture rendering in terms of handwork and materials, and polished it all up with an injection of edgy, young Parisian styling.

The result, less aggressive than McQueen and less vulgar than Macdonald, also studiously avoided references to Audrey Hepburn, who, however lovely in her time, has become a bit of a house cliché. Instead, Tisci seemed to concentrate on long dresses, one covered with black crochet lace, another in nude chiffon falling into swags and knots at the front, and a third cut from formfitting emerald velvet—all shown on girls with long, center-parted locks. Luxe items like a crushed-velvet bomber with a rose-petal collar, patent boots, and a white blouse with a zigzag ruffled front (a take on the famous Givenchy Bettina blouse) also looked promising. But just how the collection will measure up on a runway can't be judged until next season.