Nicolas Ghesquière's distillation of sport influences put Balenciaga far out in front of everyone else. Instead of scoring easy points by throwing in the inevitable track pant or tank, the designer used technical wizardry and intense research to transform surfing, diving and baseball references into streamlined city dressing.

Everything in his spring collection was body defining—cut short, sculpted to the torso and calculated to outline every curve—without losing sight of what the Balenciaga brand is all about: fantastic pants and jackets and distinctive decoration. Tiny dresses, seamed like scuba suits, had patched-in zones of bright Hawaiian surfer prints on the front or shoulder—a slick advance in Ghesquière's exploration of collaged fabric. Other dresses were bound about with drapery that was stitched flat to the body. The crucial Balenciaga pant, which Ghesquière cut with a high waist for the past season, was this time done in stretch fabrics, shaped with complex seaming.

The standout look, certain to send copy artists into overdrive, was worn by Gisele Bündchen; the striped T-shirt with padded shoulders and ribbed skintight pants was about as un-literal a reference to baseball as you can imagine. When it comes to absorbing and recasting influences, Ghesquière is fashion's champion left fielder, and that's what puts him in a different league.