Stefano Pilati categorically denied there was any religious symbolism in his Fall show. Nevertheless, the sober caped black forms, wimplelike head coverings, starched white cotton, hoods, and heavy chain pendants gave a nunlike impression. Granted, it wasn't literal, but there was something of the Catholic convent in the high white dog collar on a suit, the yoked white blouse with full sleeves, the prim and modest mid-calf dresses—and the way a cardinal purple cape made an appearance at one point. Even when a sheer black dress came out, there was a cross to bare beneath it: underwear formed as a cruciform bodysuit.

But that wasn't the gloss Pilati put on it at all. "It's about protection," he said after the show, explaining the plastic film he put over coats and inserted in patches in jackets. "And partly, an homage to YSL and the rigorous tailleur." As for the figures dangling on the gold chains that swung and bumped on the lower body as the models walked? He said he'd taken those from silhouettes of Saint Laurent fashion photos he'd cut out of seventies magazines.

Still, this collection was sometimes tricky to fathom. It was best in the simplest and strongest pieces: seventies-influenced shapes, like the high-waist flared trousers, capes, mid-calf skirts; the smart slash-sleeved jacket; and the jumpsuits—all ideas that look timely in the context of this season's trends.

But perhaps a more explanatory perspective would be the one taken from the Petit Palais, just opposite the YSL show venue, where a major retrospective of the work of the late Yves Saint Laurent is about to open. Thus far, Pilati has avoided creating comparisons to the master's archive, striving instead to make statements of his own about redefining the wardrobe for the twenty-first century. Oddly enough, if he relaxed more into channeling the way Saint Laurent nailed how the working woman wanted to dress in the Parisian seventies—as so many other designers are now—it might be an easier path.