"It's Parisian," said Nicolas Ghesquière of the assured melding of drape, print, and tailoring he sent out in the sparkling daylight streaming into the Hôtel de Crillon. The designer had mined the Balenciaga archive, examined the structure of a drape-waisted forties redingote, thought over a later sari-inspired collection, and pulled up three late-sixties scarf prints. He took it from there to design a modern translation in satin, printed silk, and fragile dévoré velvet.

It made for a sumptuous collection that played down his sci-fi tendencies in favor of a softer femininity. The Ghesquière codes were in play, too, of course. The draping (which he's explored before) emerged first in swagged charmeuse skirts, suspended from a hip-hugging yoke, and then in a fluid, wrapped relation of the jodhpur shape he brought into fashion two years ago. The shoes could only have come from him: patchworked distillations of everything that was going on in the collection, with jersey print, mesh, suede, scarf ties, and a heavy walking-boot tread on the sole.

There was a sense that Ghesquière was walking a fine line between embracing pragmatism and pushing luxurious experimentation. He showed a creamy beige coat and an impeccable black tuxedo jacket with striped menswear pants. There was also a little black dress, along with shaved mink silhouettes appliquéd onto a knit base to wrap smoothly around the body as coat-dresses, all relatively plain. Mostly, though, it's the way Ghesquière worked print that will be pored over by fashion diagnosticians. Anyone on the lookout for eighties influences might see something Dynasty (though there was nothing ostentatious or literal about it) in the puffed shoulders of the spotted and streaked prints that were wrapped into dresses and fragile blouses. The word, in the end, was sophistication: Ghesquière didn't pull back on the Balenciaga insistence on developing couture-level handwork, but there was also a sense of reality that sent cohorts of pressured buyers out onto the Place de la Concorde with relieved smiles on their faces. "Wearable" and "money in the bank," they were calling it. Not compliments they're throwing around easily in these strained times.