Portraits of Madame de Pompadour, the paintings of Fragonard and Nattier—what could the frills and curlicues of the rococo have to do with the digital print revolution? "Yes, it's excessive, and decorative, and I know everyone else is talking about minimalism," shrugged Mary Katrantzou, backstage after her show. "But I knew I needed to go a little outside the stuff I've been doing. And I do like a challenge."

She was referring to the need to feel her way into new silhouettes as well as to find some way of breaking out of the kaleidoscopic swirls and sharp-angled geometric explosions that have characterized the sensational prints coming out of London in the last two or three years. Katrantzou, a print and textile expert, has been at the forefront of inventing a new visual language that has stunned fashion with its novelty—a language Alexander McQueen was also using fluently in his last two shows. Her problem, rightly anticipated, is that novelty quickly becomes cliché—and a cheap T-shirt dress on a market stall. To keep things interesting, Katrantzou knows she has to do something more sophisticated than a placement print on a shift dress.

This time, she merged photographic images of lace, jewels, ormolu, medals, and sashes in ways that vaguely recalled Gianni Versace's more-is-more scarf prints, and she sculpted some of them into shapes that echoed parts of military jackets. Printed vest-jackets, a couple of Napoleonic coats, and a frothy frill-front shirt added bandwidth to her offer, too. Still, the effects, though interesting, seemed slightly stiff and forced until Katrantzou let herself go at the end, sending out a couple of dresses that combined asymmetric bodices, lace patched against print, glints of metallic, and cascades of half-trains trailing off at the side. Somehow, they succeeded in hitting a note of oddness that seemed new.