How to follow the mighty histories of Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford at YSL Rive Gauche? Faced with that weighty task, Stefano Pilati, in his first solo runway outing, handled things his own way. He made a clean break from the past by showing in a different, much lighter venue (the Paris Bourse) than Ford and by starting his show with a short, black-and-white polka-dot raincoat with tulip-curved hemline, cinched by a wide, square-buckled black patent leather belt. Ford would never have done that—nor the peplum-jacketed dotted suits with their short skirts, swooping up to a bustle of folds in the back. It's a compliment to Pilati that the mental comparison game had worn out at about Look 6. The guy obviously has a few things of his own to say.

"It's something between the fifties and the eighties—which is my time—but to do it now, with volumes in a different way," said Pilati, the 38-year-old who assisted Ford at YSL for four years and formerly designed at Prada. He managed to combine an imaginative respect for the house's history, while creating something new (for a generation not necessarily interested in labored references) without slavish replication.

The newness showed in the proportions. Those short tulip skirts, gathered into the waist and shown with a rounded shoulder line, moved confidently away from YSL's louche, hip-riding nineties silhouette. For the costume-history spotter, there was a nod to Saint Laurent himself in the broad belts on every daywear look—but that didn't stop them from looking like a great accessory for right now. Ditto the shoes, especially the high suede loafers with big, chic tassels, doused in pure YSL shades of strong red or vibrant green—and potentially a major hit.

Pilati's emphasis on daywear also changed the collection's priorities. For night, he dipped into ruffles and flounces, in intense fuchsia, purple, and egg-yolk yellow taffeta, or light waterfall frills of black-and-white chiffon—all with a flavor of flamenco about them. He finished with a few georgette apron dresses that were just the right side of undone. An intriguing first statement for an experienced talent getting a well-deserved chance to speak for himself.