"Fall is all about sensuality," Monique Lhuillier said a few days before her show, explaining the dark, sultry tone of her newest collection. "And besides, women feel beautiful in black." So black it was for most of the first 22 looks, until—voilà!—a silk organza blouse in ecru, bedecked in ribbons, made an appearance. There had been a few instances of cheetah up to that point, but the print was so blurred and abstract it read almost like a dark, textured solid. A strapless chiffon A-line cocktail dress in bloodred followed apace—and there was your palette.

Lhuillier used the absence of color to play with texture, most notably employing lace to conceal and reveal. For day it was embroidered over seemingly nude sleeves on a black blouse or on the bodice of a wool crepe cocktail dress. Elsewhere, a short black jacket in taffeta jacquard was frayed along the edges of its tiered, triangular hem; it added an edge of unexpected toughness to a collection that could quite easily rest on the strength of its gala gowns. And those gowns? They were stunners. A Chantilly lace corset number had a naughty bondage detail: lacquer braided belts that looped under and around the bodice to form a crisscrossing halter in the back. But that was tame in terms of sheer drama. The skirt of one red-carpet contender was made of gathered tulle and about a thousand ostrich feathers. It elicited more than a few front-row gasps.