The audience stood and cheered for Raf Simons as he took his final bow at Jil Sander today. Then they continued to stand and cheer until the designer, overwhelmed by emotion, reappeared on the catwalk. An ovation and an encore: That is the very definition of a hard fashion act to follow.

Which is exactly as it should be, given what Simons has achieved in his seven years at Jil Sander. Never mind that this was the best collection he'd presented for the label. In light of the week's events, there was an unwittingly bitter irony to the story it told. After last season's women's-world scenario, Simons wanted to celebrate a day in the life of a relationship, the pure and simple pleasure of two as one. But Raf's no Pollyanna. He was equally engaged by the hard work it takes to maintain such an ideal. So he introduced chaos into his dream world. The most graphically significant element in his collection might have been the slash of shine that split open Julia Nobis' strapless matte black sheath. Thus are hopes and dreams splintered.

Before that climactic moment, however, there was a seamless parade of peerlessly beautiful dresses and coats. A grace note was struck from the moment models entered clutching their coats closed. In Raf's day-in-the-life scenario, these might have been bathrobes, just as insinuations of slips and nighties crept in later. A palette of blush pink, coffee, and pale gray underlined an early-morning feel. The soundtrack was Mazzy Star's "Fade into You" and Sonic Youth's version of the Carpenters classic "Superstar," both songs where love is lorn. Can melancholia be uplifting? Here be proof, compounded by Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight," one of Simons' favorite songs. It sounded like an envoi to the Sander years.

He called his previous three seasons for Sander his "couture trilogy," and even before this week's shock announcement that he was departing and the house's namesake founder was returning, Simons had decided he wanted to unhinge the perfect universe he'd created. The leathered-up menswear collection he showed here in January cued a dark finale for his womenswear, where black leather and PVC threw a fetish wrench in a perfect day. Again, irony, in that the complete control of his Spring collection implied that chaos is a shot away. And here it finally was. Good luck to his successor. She'll need it.