Detroit-teen Anna Sui's first date was to One Plus One, Jean-Luc Godard's movie about the Rolling Stones' recording session for "Sympathy for the Devil." She hated it. Years later, when she was one of the young stalwarts of the Mudd Club, the monochrome look of Godard's nouvelle vague classics, like Bande à part, and the sloe-eyed intensity of his muse Anna Karina were an inspiration for Sui's crowd of artists, musicians, and filmmakers, but she still couldn't bring herself to see the actual movies. Until last Thanksgiving, when Godard's enduring modernity finally clicked for Sui. "We work the same way," she says. "Everything you come across you throw into the mix."

But that hardly gives full credit to the fierce discipline and eagle eye for detail that are essential assets for Sui when she sets about re-envisioning a cultural crush moment from her past. They're what allow her to mash a pell-mell overload of colors, textures, patterns, and accessories into a coherent whole. That creative process was in full effect in Sui's show tonight, with a whole lot of help from Garren's high ponytail, Pat McGrath's cat-eye makeup, and Frederic Sanchez's soundtrack of yé-yé French pop from the sixties. Sui's details caught the flavor of the period: the jeune fille jumper dress, the boy-watcher sunglasses, the colored tights and loafers, the kneesocks, the shift and matching helmet in Courrèges-daisy-embroidered organza. And the best example: Karlie Kloss, first on the catwalk, in a skirt, waistcoat, and jacket that were actually a trompe l'oeil one-piece that zipped up the back, just like in the olden days when the all-in-one was a cost-effective fashion solution for cash-strapped go-girls.

Yes, Sui is probably contemporary fashion's most lovable archaeologist, but simple historicism can turn on a dime into a leaden nostalgia-fest. What continually steers her to safety is the fact that every collection is, in some way, the consummation of a youthful fantasy for her. You know that this is what she imagined being a fashion designer would be like when she was a Vogue-obsessed kid in Michigan. And that is the ultimately convincing quality that seeps off her catwalk. Like today, when it felt like the long road from One Plus One to Aymeline Valade as Anna Karina for the twenty-first century completed a circle for Sui. The single regret is that she didn't stick to her original intention to make a collection that was as monochrome as her Godardian inspiration. So peerless a colorist is she that a body quivers with anticipation at the thought of where a world of black and white might take her.