Lily Cole as a black-leather catsuit-ed Emma Peel in the Hermès remake of the sixties British TV series The Avengers. Pourquoi? Actually, in a tongue-in-cheek way, it made a kind of sense for this bastion of French values. First, it gave Jean Paul Gaultier the license to hook in a spoofy power-woman stereotype for the season (a character fashion's toying with now). Second, it brought in masculine tailoring by way of Savile Row (the bowler hats and furled umbrellas were clearly the accoutrements of Peel's partner-in-sleuthing John Steed, or the Whitehall Spymaster out of James Bond). This apparent Anglophilia might have been expected to cause an international incident, given the Franco-British rivalry that's existed since Agincourt. Somehow, though, Gaultier managed to swing the whole thing around to end up as a pretty effective demonstration of classic Hermès values.

Having established his references, clever old Gaultier was, first of all, able to make sly fun of the kinky-fetish aspects of so much black leather-wearing—something that has indeed crossed the mind as a slight issue of taste in many a show this season. When Gaultier sets about using napa leather at Hermès, however, his real concern is to cut a regular and discreet jacket or coat, the likes of which is one of the foundations of the house ready-to-wear. The saddlelike epaulets with dangling vestigial stirrups may be discounted as a prank—get past them and the bowlers and the umbrellas, and what you begin to see is impeccable tailoring, with no egregious extras as far as trendiness is concerned.

That settled, Gaultier was free to use the remainder of the collection to sneak in such fare as casual-deluxe duffels, parkas, and sporty vests, along with the superb knitwear of the house. Still, he was stumped on eveningwear. He's not alone in that, this being the season of the comeback of day. But fringed mohair blankets arranged in tiers, as evening skirts? That was a joke that was just a joke.