The Martin-less Maison Margiela started on a new road last year, away from the checklist replaying of the codes of its founder. It began with a new spirit in the Artisanal collection and benefited by being shown on the Couture schedule. The crystal mask that Kanye has been seen cavorting in this week onstage? That was from the Fall 2012 Artisanal offering—and was originally worn by a girl. Then there was last season's ready-to-wear—the one currently in the stores—with its debt to Dada and the Daleks; again it had an energy and a sense of fun that felt like a fresh start. Tonight's ready-to-wear presentation showed another chapter of this new story; yet strangely, it also displayed—maybe not even consciously—some of the very foundations of its founder.

Starting with Nick Cave's song from Lawless, "Fire in the Blood/Snake Song," with bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley and Emmylou Harris, a down-home theme was set. Yet the mood of the collection was not strictly bluegrass; it was more blue-collar. Workwear, uniforms, and a take on masculine tailoring were the orders of the day in the first part of the show—and it was the first and last parts of the offering that were the strongest of all. The tailoring at Margiela was reinvigorated here, and the simple decorative touches—oversize cuffs and hand-painted stripes on the seams of suit trousers—were uncomplicated but effective. The oversize element increased as the collection went on, but it was essentially molded to and softened for the feminine shape. The other standout part was the ending of "protest dresses." The word "défilé" could be made out running down the middle of one of them—or was that "defile"? Either way, it worked; there was a definite notion of propaganda here. These dresses brought to mind Jean Paul Gaultier's legendary Constructivist collection with its debt to early Soviet agitprop. And on reflection, that earlier part of the show seemed to have a debt to Gaultier, too, in its nod to the short bomber combined with a particular take on menswear. Lest we forget, Martin Margiela once worked for Mr. Gaultier, and that seemed a romantic seam to mine in terms of connections to the founder. It all added up to something new in terms of the meta-fashion of the house.

The ghost of a genius is hard to get away from—especially when the genius in question is not even dead. Paris fashion week is haunted by a few of these talents. A simple CGI replaying of their past actions is just not going to work; instead, there has to be a forging ahead, albeit with an essential respectfulness for the principles of what the house was founded on. At Maison Martin Margiela, that is now happening.