Since getting hired at Mugler over a year ago, creative director Nicola Formichetti and his head of women's design, Sébastien Peigné, have pointed their compasses forward, relying as much on the power of Formichetti's celebrity, and that of his pal Lady Gaga, as the name of the brand. They've had mixed-to-middling results doing so, which must be why tonight's show was their most ambitious yet.

It was also their most intimate. For the last two seasons, Mugler's large, elevated catwalks kept the models and the clothes at a remove from their audience. Here, the setup was reversed—the models walked just inches front the front row—and it made a difference. So, too, did the scope of the collection. Formichetti and Peigné divided the show into sections, bookending it with a series of white looks in sculptural cashmere and neoprene with fluted peplums and fox-fur sleeves to start, and mostly sheer black "ninja" outfits to end.

The strongest pieces came in between, mostly because they were the result of careful study of the Mugler oeuvre, a not insignificant body of work. Few designers created as potent and recognizable a vocabulary as he did. The superheroine shoulders, the body-loving cut, the optimism inherent to his eighties heyday—they came together best in a yellowy-orange stretch jersey dress. A pair of sheer dresses with their appliqués of python and crocodile will find their way into Gaga's traveling trunks before long, but there was also a trio of white coats that you could imagine seeing in a department store. All in all, a positive step ahead for team Mugler.