Who'd have guessed that Alber Elbaz, the man who bestowed soft decorative dressing on the world two years ago, would be the first to break away into a new, fiercely exciting minimalism? That was what he achieved for spring: a rigorous, couture-informed reengineering of clothes for women who spend more time striding out in the world than simpering at cocktail parties.

"Modernity is always in a rush," he said of his speedily zipped-up narrow skirts, shirts, and ties; kimono-derived dresses; and tapered pants, pulled in with wide patent or elastic belts. The subtleties (because minimalism can never again mean a matte black sheath) were in the looping drape of a back view, the folded bands pressed flat into the front of a dress, suggesting obis, and the textures: washed satin, gazar, and an extraordinary scarlet metal-thread material with the 3-D appearance of velvet, crunched into a luxurious Lanvin trench.

Still, the place where Elbaz's brilliant flash of insight really starts is at the feet. He knows we know life always looks better viewed atop a fantastic pair of shoes. Lanvin's red, turquoise, emerald, and yellow patent platforms are killer-class accessories that up confidence and dramatically alter proportions. If Elbaz drew, as always, on his old-school training in couture methods for the clothes, it was auto components that inspired him to think, he said, of "designing shoes like varnished cars—like a Cadillac!" One of the best examples had a high conical heel, a thick platform, and two python straps, one white, one navy. It showed exactly how a designer as influential as Elbaz can make the decisive difference between what went on six months ago and what's right now. Genius.