Cédric Charlier acknowledged some of the season's signal items today when he showed generously cut trousers, culottes, sweatshirts, oversize drop-shoulder coats, and short dresses paired with thigh-high boots. That's what is called being "on trend," and it's a savvy place for a relatively new designer to be. But that's not really the hard part. The challenge is standing out in the crowd, creating a signature that is sharp and special enough that the world gets it—better yet, wants to get it. After two years, you could say Charlier's signature is dark and arty, precisely cut, and menswear influenced. But how does he elevate that handful of ingredients—which, after all, crop up everywhere—so his dish is the tastiest on the table?

Snakes, that's how.

"The illusion of reptiles" was Charlier's cryptic clue. The visual and sensory aspects of serpents were a starting point, the way light touches their skin, highlighting texture and pattern. The designer used a rippling debossed pattern to suggest a snake's slither, and he pleated leather to look like a scaly skin. Same with the paillettes he applied to a shift dress. "Clair obscure," Charlier called it (more familiar by its Italian name, chiaroscuro), meaning the interplay of light and shadow.

There is something nonchalant about snakes. They never seem particularly bothered by things. That quality was something Charlier was after. "A deliberation on comfort, sensuality, and nonchalance" was his description of the collection. True, all three were embodied by the slouch of a blue pantsuit—by all the trousers, in fact. But otherwise there was a very un-snaky uncertainty about this show. The holes that Charlier punched in his last three fur pieces felt like jolts of frustration. In the end, the snakes were no help.