There are some shows that make you question the meaning of, well, shows. MaxMara is a case in point. The company is one of the world's most consistently reliable sources of coats, synonymous with uncontroversial words like "classic" and "good taste." In a good way. And the program notes for the label's fall collection made reassuring mention of "sartorial rigour, quality and coherence."

Then came the show itself. There were coats all right, but submerged in "fashion styling" so egregious—hooded bodysuits, bubble skirts, white tights, and (help!) white leather fringe—as to leave the audience in a state of disbelief.

Ironically, a brisk march through the smart belted overcoats and Prince of Wales check pantsuits would have been a far bolder departure, and a sign of a brand that thinks in a modern way. The looser shape of the coats, the volume of shearling blousons, and sharp details like patent linings in the back of jacket collars could have made a condensed statement in a quarter of the time. But instead, the potential for "rigor and coherence" was dissolved in a perplexing rehash of parts of the eighties no grown woman wishes to relive. A nod toward "volume" with a single egg-shape skirt? Fine. But to commit to that as a "theme," done in dogtooth patterns, up to and including ballooning taffeta and an occasional explosion of flamenco ruffles? Incredible. In a bad way.

MaxMara is far from the only Italian manufacturer to fall into this old-think "designer collection" way of dressing up a core product as glamorous news. The trouble is that runway showiness is predicated on a template that was set in the eighties—and which now looks as out of date as those fringed ankle boots.