Christophe Lemaire says he thinks of his clothes in context, so the venue for his shows is important. Today's was an old printing works, and its perfectly proportioned theatricality made an apt backdrop for a presentation whose subtle drama had something of the stage about it. Lemaire has distilled his fashion formula for both men and women to seven key elements: overcoat, blouson, suit, pants, sweater, boots, belt. If that sounds like death to free creative rein, the designer managed to produce, within those strictly defined limits, a collection that was filled with character.

Last season was so intimate that Lemaire felt like taking Fall outdoors. Outerwear—oversize, mannish coats, some with a strong military caste—was the spine of the presentation. The rest of the clothes, a few incongruous printed pieces aside, took their cue from the coats. Lean, high-waisted pants, strong-shouldered jackets, and Mao-ish combos defined the reductive essence of Lemaire's proposition. The soundtrack—it evoked an Anna Karenina-like meeting on a train station platform, with Françoise Hardy's smoky, lovelorn vocal accompaniment—drenched the whole thing in thwarted romance. And as always there were the subtly decorative accessories—the tiny immaculate leather bags steam-molded by Florentine artisans—to suggest the rich inner life of Lemaire's women.