There are some designers who torture themselves to produce their best work, some whose ideas flare defiantly under pressure, and some whose brilliance can only flourish when they are set free from angst. Christian Lacroix belongs to the last category: a creator motivated by happiness. That emotion—painted in a fantastic kaleidoscope of color and sketched with a real idea of how a great summer ought to feel to a girl—came through in every outfit that trod blissfully along the bright yellow sand of his runway.

In a season of print and femininity, Lacroix put together one of the most ravishingly individual looks to be found anywhere. Hair tied up in printed headscarves, his girls wore flowered dresses with contrasting slubby coats or jackets slung on top. They walked lightly, in Hessian ballet shoes, swinging straw bags, each decorated with a big satin bow with a chunk of diamanté in the center. And within that template, he found ways to play out all the experience of his nearly 20 years as a couturier: his taste for Spanish boleros, corseted bustiers, eighteenth-century brocades, bold African prints, flowing painterly chiffons.

All that fantasy and skill has been tantalizingly glimpsed in his haute couture collections, season after season. Sometimes it's come off as stiff, sometimes weird and out of joint with the times. But with this collection, his second ready-to-wear under new management, Lacroix has finally realized his full potential—in ways guaranteed to charm every girl who chances across it.