How do you pin down a collection that pings around in the unbridgeable gulfs between Helmut Berger, Kurt Cobain, Darth Vader, and Roald Amundsen? Why even try? You just surrender. Balenciaga offered a navy pinstripe suit and an elegantly elongated black overcoat that would bring out the Berger in a modern dandy. There were mohair-webbed grungy knits and a twisted preppy subtext ("B" for Balenciaga writ large on a T-shirt stitched over a striped top) that Cobain might have related to. On other T-shirts, Darth's face loomed, while designer Nicolas Ghesquière's taste for sci-fi also made its presence felt in another motif that could have been lifted from period promo material for the space race.

The most intriguing theme, however, was polar exploration. Perhaps that was Ghesquière's way of acknowledging global warming, because the polar styles had the slightly retro feel of the kit of the original pioneers, men like Amundsen who would have seen the ice caps in their pristine splendor. A khaki nylon parka was decked with polar insignia, fur tippets attached to jacket collars for added warmth, and a fleece hat with big earflaps made for striking headgear. And silk scarves printed with old maps were so romantic as to compel a re-examination of the rest of the collection. Was there also a kind of romance in the lavaliere ties on evening shirts? Or in the tan leather biker jacket that, paired with the stonewashed chinos, might suit a twenty-first-century Indiana Jones? Even the Rorschach-bleached denims hinted at outré psychological depths.