Guillaume Henry coined a new word, "showtation," for the hybrid catwalk/presentation he put on today for Carven. The open houses of previous seasons are too small a stage for a label that has ignited quickly after launching just two years ago. But if the setup was different, Henry's signature—brainy bourgeois—is evolving in a well-considered, step-by-step way. Citing Simone de Beauvoir and Lee Miller as muses, he called the look bonne manière. "It means to be properly dressed; I can't fight what I like."

His girl may be proper—choosing skirts over pants, never saying no to a little white collar, opting to cover up rather than going bare (at least most of the time)—but she isn't dull. The skirt is a lampshade shape worn with a shrunken, double-breasted patent jacket with arches cut into the hips. And joining a pair of sweaters with an animal figure knitted into the shoulders was a blouse with moon-shaped cutouts above the breasts. Equally suggestive were a red tartan dress with nude lace decorating the bust, and a barely-there velvet bra worn under a cropped jacket and draped jersey skirt.

Titillation is only a small part of the story here, though. Other looks, like the navy cropped ribbed sweater that topped a slim L.B.D., balanced safe and chic in a smart way that will have Henry's customers returning again and again. Clothes that are hardworking and easy on the bank account? That's a can't-miss combination.