One of the things that Maison Martin Margiela understands better than most is that fashion is just stuff. It's a paradox of the system that the label most wedded to conceptualism is in some ways the most pragmatic: There's very little that the Maison won't make into a garment.

Flotsam and jetsam were essential components of the Fall collection. The suits that opened the show seemed, with their looser, longer cuts, like artifacts of an earlier time, washed up on the shores of the present. (Their distended lapels and the twisted shirts shown under them suggested they'd been literally buffeted en route.) But the looks weren't only retro. As the collection processed, it became clear that they included literal remnants: gilets made of school-satchel leather, with their clasp closures still attached; trenches wrapped in military blankets; and, as the show segued toward the surreal, coats and jackets made of dinghies, tents, and diving vests.

The Maison, via press release (its only communication), had an explanation that involved a lost, glacial city—hence the frozen-looking suits. But even if that fantasy left you cold, there was the simpler, more poignant message to take away, namely that stuff endures. The implicit corollary being, of course, that man does not. (The label itself is a good example of this: The Maison has outlasted the involvement of Margiela.) The toughness of a jacket made of diving vests or a trench of waterproof bags only underscores the essential fragility of those who wear them. Once the mind fixed onto that thought, it was hard to shake free. But for consolation or solace there were always the clothes themselves, various but also seductive and wearable in their reliquary way.