There are moments in a designer's rise that you're happy to be around for. Tonight at Joseph Altuzarra's show was one of those times. He's had hits before (counting the Altuzarra Fall '11 parkas and knockoffs in the crowd has been a fun way to pass the time between shows this week) but none of them have been quite as ambitious or as all-around successful as this.

Altuzarra chose Corto Maltese, the protagonist of an adult French comic from the sixties and seventies, as his starting point. "He was a sailor, his mom was a gypsy, and his dad was Venetian." That gave the designer a reason to really dig into military-influenced tailoring. Describing the fabulous fur peacoats, velvet blazers, and shearling toggle coats (gold-plated horn toggles, to be precise) would take up too much space here, but suffice it to say there were some real swashbucklers, and that for every jacket, there was an equally great-looking pair of corduroy flares or slim cargo pants peeking out from above thigh-high boots.

But that was only part of the story. Maltese was a traveler and his adventures in Morocco and India provided a premise for the collection's kutch banjara dresses over-embroidered with medallions (we can already see the magazine editorials), as well as more real-world-ready material like chunky yet fitted knits decorated with colorful pompons and printed with tapestry motifs.

In between there was a trio of little black dresses that read as very French, very Belle de Jour. And fans of Altuzarra, meanwhile, will recognize callbacks to previous seasons; a draped jersey dress in a Moroccan carpet print, for example, looked like the descendant of the lamé cocktail numbers from his breakout Fall '09 show. It's not everybody in New York who can riff on their own work and still find something new to articulate.

"I just wanted to do things that women want to wear," Altuzarra said before the show, "to figure out how to make clothes that look rich but feel easy." We'd say he's done it and then some.