"If I want animals, I can go to the Bronx Zoo," one editor wisecracked as she left Jean Paul Gaultier's beautiful but awkwardly choreographed fall show. To accompany his models, the designer sent out everything from a bald cat to a dreadlocked sheepdog to a greyhound that tried to remove a plastic cone collar as it made its reluctant path down the runway (the girl who wore a matching one of her own didn't look very happy, either). Gaultier could have skipped the pet tricks, because these clothes spoke for themselves. One model came out with an owl perched on her wrist, but what was worth noting was the lovely gold embroidery on her velvet top, as well as the gloves made from tiny half-circles of iridescent leather that evoked python skin.

Gaultier played with such touchstones of the moment as fur, dresses over pants, length, and volume. Tucked-hem bubble dresses were teamed with smartly tailored jackets or topped flaring trousers; trapeze coats came in sheared fur or were edged in velvet; and a sparkly evening column was veiled with tulle. In a season of memorable trench coats, Gaultier's were standouts. Some were accessorized with stiff crocodile girdles that, depending on your point of view, smacked of subordination or, more in keeping with the current mood, domination. A few others were straightforward above the waist, flaring out below into flippy, flirty kilts. But the best was Stella Tennant's classic crinkled-silk number—it made you forget the four-legged distractions.