If there is one connecting principle that ran through Yves Saint Laurent's hottest years, it was the way he picked up the beat of street ideas and transformed them into transcendent cut. For the first time, Stefano Pilati came close to nailing the essence of that bold philosophy, centering his collection on the mission to reshape form and give it a contemporary bite. That clarity of intent produced a fresh silhouette and a new proportion, designed around a precisely engineered upper-body volume—but that's just the technical side. Volume can be overwhelming, fattening, and fashion-victim-y, but here Pilati concentrated on offering chic women—and not just young women—a dashing, long-legged wardrobe eminently cut out for urban living.

The news was in the rounded, raglan-sleeved coats and menswear-derived jackets—and a multiplicity of textures scored, stamped, and bubbling up from concrete-gray and black surfaces (who else could make a gray "fur" out of knotted chiffon?). Before now, Pilati's enthusiasm for fabric innovation has run away with him, but he controlled it in the service of elegant shapes that stood away from the body. His jackets, starting with a gray, mannish blazer, captured the idea of "oversized," but tailored it to form a bell-like volume in front—an idea that ended in a couple of sublime tuxedo jackets for evening (put on one of those, add a pair of black opaques, and you can forget the skirt).

If the achievement here was partly the sense that Pilati had rejected the burden of quoting too much literal YSL history, he also melded a significant reference into the collection that reached back to the radical beginnings of Saint Laurent's career. The subversive Left Bank spirit of the crocodile thigh boots that so shocked the establishment in the early sixties (and got Yves fired from Dior) rose again in a fiercely chic passage of black shiny nylon-look cloque, black hoods, gauntlets, and dark glasses. It was a timely reminder that all really new ideas are risky at first—before they get absorbed and worn by everyone months later. Pilati himself experienced that in the general panning his first YSL collection received, after which his belts, tulip skirts, and platforms were copied the world over. There's a chance that the newness in this show might stir up some of the same like-it-loathe-it controversy, but whatever the response, this much is already clear: Few designers in the world are applying themselves to modernity in this way, and that's an energy fashion sorely needs in order to go forward.