Usually, the most direct route to understanding an Ann Demeulemeester collection is to get the T-shirt. This season, she'd printed a cameo of angelic children by the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron on her standard white tank. "I was feeling for something poetic and fragile," she said. "A bit like Victorian innocence. Beautiful, but contemporary, too."

So that explains how a new, bunchy form bubbled up in the midsection between the textured leathers and solid biker boots Demeulemeester always shows. It was her way of tuning in to the raised waists and pouf skirts of the season for her resolutely alternative audience.

The real substance of the collection, though, was in everything else. Taken apart, Demeulemeester's layers speak for themselves. Her military jackets and redingotes in parchment-colored goatskin or ink-dark wool cut an excellent swagger, while her traily, washed-satin under-pieces had a romantic femininity. But most welcome of all were the huge, fiercely glossy scarves, made out of multiple strands of alpaca wound around her models. On a subzero Paris night, that was one idea that had her audience instantly sold.