The story that will inevitably linger about the Fall Balmain show is that its creative director, Christophe Decarnin, failed to show up. The designer is under doctor's orders to rest after being treated for an unconfirmed illness, alternately rumored to be depression or exhaustion. But there was news on the runway as well. Decarnin and his new stylist, Melanie Ward (who replaced Emmanuelle Alt after the latter was elevated to the editor in chief role at Paris Vogue), traded the punk influences of last season for glam rock, swapping Sid's version of "My Way" for David Bowie's "Lady Grinning Soul" off Aladdin Sane. Bowie's Thin White Duke was all over the Fall men's collections, but it was Ziggy Stardust in his spangled glory who seemed to be the inspiration behind today's crystal-encrusted jumpsuits. The all-in-ones were a first for Decarnin's Balmain, hard as that may be to believe given how thoroughly the designer has plumbed the seventies for ideas.

There has been much speculation about the extent of Ward's involvement (she is best known for her work with the nineties fashion god Helmut Lang). Her influence perhaps accounted for the loosened-up silhouettes of the house's signature minidresses (this season painstakingly hand-embroidered with mosaics of mirrors and ribbons) as well as for the borrowed-from-the-boys proportions of bib-front tuxedo shirts. Decarnin kick-started the current craze for nineties-era boot-cut flares a year ago. The new pant is deeply cuffed and cropped below the knee and above a lace-up boot; what's more, it's not second-skin tight. When this collection hits the stores, some of the first pieces to go will be the metallic leather peaked-lapel blazers, one ice blue, the other yellow gold. They delivered the trademark house sizzle, but in a fresh, powerful way. And without all the embroidered glitz, they'll ring up quite a savings at the register. As questions swirl, it's a new day at Balmain.