In the 1990s, Gucci was emblematic of the democratization of luxury. John Ray seems determined to reverse the process, resuscitating luxury as a private pleasure to be savored by a discerning few. His sumptuous collection for fall 2005 arrived in store windows on Milan's Via Montenapoleone just as he was showing the next step, for spring 2006. The essence of his new presentation was still elegant formality (Ray is fascinated by the notion of changing throughout the day), but done with the lightness demanded by spring.

So the first passage was all white—a ribbed sweater, say, with cuffed trousers cropped to just above the ankle and espadrilles as a casual accompaniment. The collection's body-consciousness was striking in suitings, including knit jackets that molded to the torso. Silk shirts were printed with Japanese-influenced monochrome floral patterns, subtle but rich. Ray's fondness for Helmut Berger in his Visconti-era lushness explained the occasional misstep—like the black-trimmed cream cashmere "kept boy" robe—and those eensy bathing suits were a jarring blast of Gucci past. But Ray has genuine vision, and an uncompromising faith in the modern male's desire to dress up. Hence the final evening passage, from white dinner jacket to tails. Seated front-row, an enthused Kanye West declared his willingness to wear just about everything—even the tails, "if I was going to conduct an orchestra."