The decor at Hermès can usually tell you something about the show's theme. Last Spring's wall of spices presaged the Passage to India clothes. This season's Oriental rug indicated Jean Paul Gaultier might be planning for another trip east. But, no.

This was the designer in atypical quiet mode. You could discern a mildly amusing furniture motif if you looked hard enough: The runway rug was reinterpreted as a pattern for skirts, robe dresses, knee-high boots, and decidedly un-Hermès jumpsuits tied off with tasseled silk cord belts. Fringed cashmere throw blankets, meanwhile, morphed into wrap skirts.

But for the most part, this was a collection of coats and jackets: pebble-leather trenches, suede-crocodile blazers, long thick-knit cardigans, shearlings, and suede toppers lined in curly lamb, all accessorized with knit caps and scarves piled high on the models' shoulders. Luxurious, yes, but nothing to set fashion types' hearts soaring. The only novelty was a reintepreted Kelly bag worn messenger-style at the hip. As a collection of French classics, it couldn't quite compete with the high-fashion news being made elsewhere in Paris. A simple presentation in the Hermès flagship on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré would have been more appropriate. The appeal of these low-key clothes is in the quality of the workmanship and in their hand (their touch and feel), and you can't get that experience when they're up on the runway.