Ralph Rucci has a finely tuned sensibility that smoothes the most outrageously extravagant materials (albino alligator, anyone?) into a neutral art form. In fact, it’s his taste for taupe and the pristine cleanliness of his cuts that mark Rucci out as an American—the sole U.S. couturier to show in Paris.

Sometimes criticized for heavy-handedness in his search for sculptural volumes, the designer lightened up for Spring. Funnel-necked jackets, raincoats and rounded, caped shapes, achieved with circular and elliptical piecing, displayed both intellectual rigor and wearability. Rucci’s obsession with Japanese tradition (the Chado tag refers to the tea ceremony) came out this season in some looped stylings derived from the obi. What worked as a graceful back detail in a jacket, however, created an unfortunate monobosom effect when added to the front of a gown.

In truth, Rucci—who doesn’t do sexy or girly—struggled to make his evening looks work. His daywear, on the other hand, was a rarity that stands out on a European runway. Blending propriety and luxury, it’s just the thing for that modern breed of CEO-class women who want discretion and presence in their clothes.