She was an ethereal vision, palely advancing into focus: a girl dressed in a high-neck, frill-front blouse and a long slender skirt circled with minute, tufted ruffles. Edwardian, but not quite. And how on earth to describe that ghostly, barely tangible color? A fugitive mint-tinged gray perhaps, but never mind. The inadequacy of stock fashion vocabulary to nail what Olivier Theyskens does at Rochas is a good sign that something compelling is unfolding at this house. So leave it to the boy himself to put it into words: "I wanted something more sober and restrained, but like the girls had been photographed in the morning sunlight."

The voice of a true romantic, but one who demonstrates a precociously grown-up rigor in his thinking. With his new Edwardian silhouette in cream wool or mohair lace, or cut away at the shoulders to fall into soft tiers of lacy petals, Theyskens has made a distinct break from the fifties couture trend he started at Rochas in March 2003. (One which has influenced fashion ever since.) To make such a change, he taught himself to cut on the bias, which led to the new softness in his skirt trains, and the fluttering rivulets of chiffon that run along the length of a precious pale-pink printed gown.

But it's not just technique and restraint of mood that's moving this remarkable collection ahead of the copyists. Behind the reserved, otherworldly persona, Theyskens is a quick study. He understands the kind of women he's designing for, and they have a need for a shorter skirtsuit that can go from day to evening. Shapely variations of those appeared with scallop-edged peplums, trimmed with mink, or cut in black satin with Japanese influences. Together with his grand evening gowns for the young and beautiful, Theyskens is addressing the desires of other, sophisticated customers (age unspecified) who love acquiring amazing clothes. The fact that so many of them live in America adds substance to his broadening appeal.