"I have to reflect the times, and this really is my mood," said Stefano Pilati. The impact of the resized economy, which has scattered much of Paris fashion week to grungy suburban venues and induced nervy, vacillating results on many runways, only produced a positive response in this house. Shown in close-up on a narrow walkway around an upper gallery in the centrally located Palais de Tokyo, the presentation—like the clothes themselves—was fully concentrated on demonstrating a confident vision of modern city wardrobing. It was monochrome, but far from down, with a particular Pilati-esque superchic Frenchness filtered through the YSL codes of black leather, gray flannel, pristine white shirting, and, of course, Le Smoking.

Pilati had taken the idea of the motorcycle jacket (a Saint Laurent landmark piece from his early collection for Christian Dior) to kick-start his design process. The show opened with black leather, some of it textured with thermo-molding technology borrowed from the car industry. There was a touch of eroticism (a zippered bodysuit would have thrilled Helmut Newton), but the material was mainly used to construct sleek, though not too close-fitting, pieces for everyday street wear. From there, Pilati worked into the flannel and chalk stripes, developing the most elegantly desirable pants (no more Japanese drop-crotch extremes) and cutting jackets with an unpadded extended shoulder.

There was no falling back on the all-too-easy clichés of the eighties that have beset many other collections. That was down to the effort Pilati put into honing the tailoring into new but accessible shapes. A mannish blazer—big in the shoulder, narrow in the hips—was conceived for adaptability; the designer imagined how it could be worn over a skirt, dress, leggings, or on its own over opaque tights (and no ordinary tights—close-up, some of them had a changeant green-black sheen; others had fishnet fused into the surface). Within this new clarity of thinking, Pilati turned out coats with curviform hems, paneled skirts with a coolly sexy flip in the hem, and crisp white blouses with complex volumes in the sleeve. It was "ordinary," practical dressing, in a way, but done with all the savoir faire of a Parisian powerhouse.

Pilati's concise message left no room for grandiose evening gestures, though there were a couple of short, simple, and desirable velvet dresses, with a subtle sparkle applied through metallic flocking. He had also thought about day-to-night usefulness, weaving a low-shine lamé thread into multitasking charcoal dresses and jumpsuits that could be worn to work or out to dinner. The show concluded not with miles of red-carpet chiffon destined for one-night-only appearances but with a black tuxedo coat-dress, loosely buttoned over: the sort of piece Pilati foresees a woman keeping in her wardrobe forever. "Of course we have evening dresses, always, at Saint Laurent," he said. "But I think timelessness is a good message for now, no?"