Olivier Theyskens is blessed with a rare romanticism, shot through with an almost invisible thread of something darker. For Rochas, he gathers up the lace, taffeta bows, silver lamé, delicate pink silks, and roses of old-world couture, and re-presents them as a modern bouquet—an offering to girls who have never seen prettiness through the eyes of one of their own generation. "I didn’t want to do a sexy siren," he said. "Not trendy, not street, but something like a goddess from another world."

That vision translated first into black lace, covering silver-gray suits with bolero jackets over short, slightly flared high-waisted skirts. Then corsetry came into play, exposed in swooping cutaway necklines beneath suits or structured into strapless dresses. All the while, he worked with tiny decorative edgings and frills, introducing oval lace insets (he calls them "cocoons") that finally took over as the pattern dominating a few grand evening gowns.

Although Theyskens respects beauty and rejects the shock tactics, irony, and edginess of a previous generation, there's something febrile in his imagination, too. The structure of his clothes was inspired, he said, by the work of Aloise Corbaz, a schizophrenic 1920's outsider artist who painted naïvely magical figures of women in breast-exposing dresses. That strange undercurrent didn't prevent him from sending out a couple of voluminous tulle wonders that will walk beautifully on any red carpet. But it adds to the sense that this young designer is capable of skewing the apparently conventional in a fascinatingly different way.