Whether he's designing ready-to-wear or couture, Riccardo Tisci veers between strict-chic and otherworldly, goddesslike creatures called up from imagined lands. This season, ideas about Morocco, Berber tribespeople, and equestrianism informed both narratives—not that the collection read in any literal ethnographic way. It began with fiercely tailored, padded-shouldered coats molded into the waist and over the hips in black velvet or patinated strips of leather—the riding element—and then moved on into sarouel-influenced pants, hoods, veiled and draped silhouettes, and gold embroidery with a Middle Eastern influence. It had drama, too: Karlie Kloss in a long white veil over an ivory patent-leather corset and cream pants, walking like some sort of science-fantasy princess.

It doesn't particularly matter any more in couture if a theme doesn't completely hold up to scrutiny. What counts are the other tests that apply to custom-made clothes: the specialness of each individual outfit and the relevance of the clothes to what a fashion-conscious woman might want to wear. It's on those points that Tisci's work at Givenchy makes its impact. The coats and a standout black velvet jacket over draped, tile-patterned gold embroidered pants have a hip, luxe contemporary desirability. Ditto some of the eveningwear, like a slick, high-necked, long-sleeved black pailletted gown, and—when stripped of the fluoro jeweling—the things he does with draped nude chiffon. If Tisci's thought process sometimes lacks coherence, he is still a designer bringing a much-needed sense of modernity to an old tradition.