There was a time when Martin Margiela was king of the worn, the unassuming, the label-less piece that had YOUR name written all over it, rather than the moniker of some fashion nabob. But current affairs have brutally intruded on Margiela's hermetic environment. The wagons are circling, the ice caps are melting, the sky is falling. And Margiela's response was quite in keeping with his thoughtful reputation. He offered the sartorial embodiment of the idea that the best defense is a good offense. At the same time, it's his 20th anniversary, so elation and deflation were all wrapped up together in one spiky package.

Aggression seeped out of a barbed-wire motif that manifested itself variously as the buckle on a belt, a ring, and a rubber body piece (unusually conceptual for Margiela). A print featured chain-link fencing. The accessory collection was all about jewelry that looked like it had been crushed by a truck. And boots produced in a limited edition of 100 were spray-painted with a fearsome skull motif. Even the crackled-wax finish on trousers suggested some kind of violence. It was all so far away from the Margiela we know and love that it exerted a sick fascination that spilled over into a nylon jacket defined by a big red "M" (why was Michael Jackson insinuating himself into a Martin Margiela collection?) and a T-shirt, also distinguished by a giant "M" in a gaffer-tape print.

The sense of post-apocalyptic make-do was mercifully balanced by a small group of hyper-polished tailoring. And the scaliness of a snakeskin printed on velvet might have had the requisite creepiness for the collection, but it also endorsed the fetishistic fabric research that has always made the house of Margiela such a disturbing, delightful proposition. The leather bags had apparently been waxed, microwaved, and baked. They smelled like it. And the sunglasses—wraparounds called L'Incognito—would turn anyone into a Zylon. Call him fearless, but with this collection Martin Margiela isn't looking to make the world a kinder place.