Given the primal, tribal intensity of a Rick Owens show, the designer himself can sound remarkably offhand about what it is that he does. "I'm known for three things," he said today. "The big coat, the big boots, the big T-shirt." And so he gave them to his public. But if that was all he did, the story would stop here. Of course it didn't, and those "three things" were just components—albeit key ones—in a collection that took Owens somewhere new.

"Battle-scarred heroism" was Owens' theme. The models stepped out into the Salle Marcel Cerdan, a brutal concrete bunker, through clouds of steam, their faces bleached clean, their hair frizzed into huge dandelion heads. Wagner's "Schmerzen" ("Torments") soared on the soundtrack. It has been referred to as "a morbidly erotic song that joins love and death in passionate embrace." But if this so far reads like a spiral into apocalypse (which is, in fact, a journey Owens has not been averse to in the past), that was not at all the case today.

Instead, the designer showed some of the most appealingly direct and simply beautiful pieces he has ever offered. The weightiness of his theme was leavened by his revision of his three signal pieces. The coats often had the big-sleeved volume of kimonos, the boots had needle heels instead of Frankenstein-soled chunk, and the T-shirts were sportily layered in mid-thigh tunics, some with asymmetric, bauble-trimmed tails. That decorative touch, rare for Owens, blew up in the collection's major motifs: Japanese-influenced knotting and grids of lacing. Realizing his predilection for the outré might incline his audience toward bondage scenarios, Owens quickly pointed out that it was actually traditional basket-weaving techniques he was referencing. He used them to knot a yoke of black ponyskin to a skirt of white suede in one spectacular jacket. White basket weave also strikingly hemmed a black kimono jacket. There were, however, plenty of simpler pieces to love, like the white-laced coat-dress and the abbreviated duffel.

Fixed on his notion of heroic grace under pressure, Owens insisted that how you respond to adversity is a gauge of your character. That sounded like the kind of conviction that is based on personal experience. He agreed. "It's what I hope to be," he said. Still, you felt the grace, not the pressure, in the collection Owens showed today.