The shaggy mohair coat, opaque white hose, and T-strap sandals, not to mention Karolina Kurkova's bouffant-y 'do, suggested that Tomas Maier had something very different in mind from last season's sporty ease at Bottega Veneta. But if the designer's interest in knee-length skirts, trim little cardigans, sleeveless shifts, and sparkling semiprecious jewelry seemed almost Hitchcockian, the clothes were hardly prim. That's because Maier made use of unexpected fabrics—a pilly wool or a densely woven, three-dimensional yarn, say, for a pair of ladylike coats. And not only that, he was also quite adventurous with surface treatments. What at first looked like dust on Abbey Lee Kershaw's sweater vest turned out to be actual tea staining. All right, maybe that's not the most retail-savvy idea, but later on came clever, covetable dresses embellished with lace both real and virtual. (A spray-painting technique created trompe l'oeil lace stencils.) And the experiments didn't end there. The hems of a pair of corset dresses looked as though they'd been put through a paper shredder, swishing back and forth underneath overlays of that same black lace.

Backstage, Maier said he hoped the effect of all his work would be like that of looking at stained glass windows in a Gothic church. The way the light filters through and shifts so that you're never quite sure what you're seeing. One thing we do know for sure, the results on the runway were impressive, and in the case of those cocktail dresses, captivating. Hand-painted duchesse satin ball skirts suspended from raw canvas corsets felt perhaps too much like a design school project. Otherwise, though, this was a polished collection from one of fashion's most confident practitioners.