It may have been his best collection yet—it was undoubtedly his most elegant. With today's show, Rick Owens scaled new heights in his pursuit of purity. It was a master class in balance and proportion, perfectly colored to match, in complementary layers of taupe, gray, brown, ivory, and black. From the moment Daphne Groeneveld walked out onto the runway in elbow-length gloves and a floor-length skirt, her head wrapped, a cape thrown back over her shoulders, the show was a vision of the kind of glamour that sparked Owens' interest in fashion in the first place. True, the hoods, snoods, and capes harked back to the sisters who've populated the designer's catwalk in the past, but here the holiest of orders came from Hollywood on high. One model in a mink cape might have been headed to the Warner Bros. lot. And Owens referenced Charles James, the fabulous but flawed American couturier whose career he once dreamed of emulating, with jackets and coats whose padded sleeves looked like angels' wings.

They were the one significant example of volume in a collection where Owens wanted as narrow a silhouette as possible. So the shapes that are his usual signature were pared away. This loaned a new precision to his work, which made it easier to appreciate his cut and proportion. With typical aw-shucks modesty, he insisted his key look wasn't much more than a wrap skirt with a T-shirt and sweater thrown on top—the kind of casual, slightly grungy look he himself does so well. The merest glance at—let alone touch of—the clothes put paid to that idea.

Still, Owens might have been reminding us that his success is entirely on his own terms. As overwhelmingly chic as the collection looked, it was still recognizably Rick: Its building block was, after all, a pair of shorts with a crotch so dropped they might as well have been a skirt. Under a long knit tunic and a shorter jacket, they certainly looked like one.