Martin Margiela is one of the main engines of fashion change in our times, a man whose design process normally disregards current trends so completely that what he does one season (to general ridicule) will likely be absorbed by the mainstream a year later: Witness the padded shoulder, pioneered by Margiela in Spring 2007, and now unquestioningly co-opted into "normal" tailoring across the board. That aesthetics-shifting power makes him a bit of a fashion insider's rock star, which is why a pre-gig anticipatory buzz hovered over an audience that scrambled for seats in a packed sports arena before his Fall show. Margiela played it up, too, with spotlights on girls emerging from backstage and the wail of heavy metal on the soundtrack.

But did the earth move? Not so seismically that you could predict a reconfiguration of the future landscape. To begin with, Margiela's women stalked out in bodysuits with one-legged fishnet skirts or a series of extreme, diagonally sliced silk capes trailing over them. The image had a hard-core, long-line glamour, the sexual frisson underlined by knee-high snakeskin boots, floor-stabbing heels made from six-inch nails, and later, leather boot leggings zippered up the back.

On the wearable side of the ledger, Margiela chalked up one-shouldered leopard-spot tops, halters suspended from a kind of metal clerical collar, and a few nice but (for him) puzzlingly noncontroversial envelope clutches. If that was a small concession to commerciality, he didn't give any ground on his new idea for tailoring. Unfortunately, it centered on the dreaded funnel neck, an idea that has been rising with bewildering frequency in other collections this season. Margiela's were the most extreme on the scene so far—shoulderless jackets and knits rising up past the ears (an effect pioneered by Viktor & Rolf some seasons ago). What to make of it? A theoretical indicator that will push a more vertical silhouette in seasons to come, maybe, but in this form, not exactly a look you can imagine being sported, as Margiela's padded shoulder has been, up and down the front row.