Karl Lagerfeld insisted that the painterly, Dadaist backdrop at Fendi's show today had little or nothing to do with the collection, but his co-conspirator Silvia Venturini Fendi had already described a picture of the woman whose spirit dominated the show: a buttoned-up-to-the-neck art teacher who was still wild enough to wipe her paintbrushes in her hair and unleash the animal within. Nice. If she was the raison d'être of the collection, kudos to her, because this was one of Fendi's strongest showings yet, in an escalating series of convincing fashion performances. Teach's style was strict but lived-in. She wore Mary Janes; her woolen tights bagged slightly at the knee. A decorous yet bold frill was pinned to the front of her blouse. She had incredible taste in cloth coats, one of which was appealingly detailed with a bow in the back. She valued comfort, as in the elasticated waist and cuffs of a skirt and pants. And her highly developed color sense was obvious in her layering of a rich blue coat over a teal skirt and yellow tights.

But this woman was also uncaged in her soul. There are seasons when Fendi's artistry with fur is devoted to suggesting the opposite. This wasn't one of them. Today's teacher wigged out on shaggy wildness. Sable, fox, chinchilla, and mink were collaged together to make an altogether new beast, in the same way that the leather of the new Fendi Chameleon bags was treated to lend an element of ever-shifting unpredictability. This unrestrained, unpredictable spirit guided the trompe l'oeil of an apparently sober dress that matched a navy cotton blouse to a felted wool skirt—and spun to reveal that it was slashed open at the back. Anja Rubik's finale number also had a standout sobriety—high-collared, full-sleeved, floor-length—but it too was bare behind. In fact, Rubik's outfits in the show marked the trajectory of the collection, from her opening hike-in-the-country coat to a navy leather-and-fur construct to that final look. From prim to pagan and back again (or sage to sauvage, which was the suggestion of the show notes), there was an emotional arc here that even the ever-matter-of-fact Lagerfeld couldn't deny.