Giles Deacon's invitation was an exact facsimile of an official summons to appear in court, which caused tremors for a few invitees when they pried it from its equally official-looking envelope.

A talent to disconcert has long been a Giles trait. There's something about his approach to his design work that is unabashedly—and often darkly—fetishistic. That means this would seem to be his time, because for Fall, his peers have also been plumbing depths of shadowy sexuality. Sure enough, Deacon delivered his most accomplished collection to date. Not for the first time this season did the words "restraint and release" come to mind. The look that expressed it best was a governess-y white blouse gathered by wasp-waisted black corseting that barely controlled an eruption of shaggy champagne-toned goat fur. A white bow in the hair, black peep-toe booties on the feet, and the ensemble was complete. Specialist appeal? Why, yes, especially for readers of top-shelf magazines, but the intense discipline of the look also translated into a passage of slickly sophisticated suits.

The high necks and elongated lines reflected the time Deacon spent researching Victoriana and Edwardiana in the Victoria and Albert Museum. When the collection took a breather from black and white, it exploded into psychedelic-ized William Morris, based on tiles made by Morris' ceramist William de Morgan. And Deacon's key print was also from the nineteenth century. Delaroche's painting The Execution of Lady Jane Grey depicts the young queen blindfolded, corseted, about to lose her head to a hulking brute with a big ax. Martyred innocence is scarcely Deacon's default position, so it was surely the emotional extremity of the image that fit with the designer's big picture.

He populated that picture with women as fierce and worldly as dominatrices, parading by like exotic birds of prey in clouds of stripped black peacock feathers and swaths of wild pagan fur. Do such creatures even exist? For perhaps the first time in Deacon's career, it just about seemed possible.