The staging of Givenchy's Spring couture—a heavy mist, water dripping onto a gray slab, an indistinct view of a raised tableau in the background—was enigmatic, until you knew the backstory. Riccardo Tisci, the young Italian at the helm, explained afterward that the collection was inspired by his hometown, Taranto, a seaport in Puglia, and "the metamorphosis of sailors into mermaids."

In retrospect, it all fell into place: the conceptual deconstructions of admiral's and captain's jackets, the long-trained body-molding gowns trailing across the damp ground. The youngest couturier in Paris, Tisci obviously aspires to say something personal and poetic with his work, and his melancholic and romantic nature is beginning to come into focus. He has a sure touch with dramatic dresses, like the strapless yellow chiffon veiled in black and the mushroom-hued Edwardian gown. And a single, soft suede naval coat unfurling into a train stood out among overcomplicated tailored pieces.

Still, his talent—like all talents—needs time to develop. It┐s a big challenge for a relatively inexperienced hand to be thrust into a spotlight where comparisons with the world┐s best couturiers are inevitable, if unfair. Oddly enough, what Tisci needs most is the confidence not to try too hard to fit in with the old guard. His oversize naval caps and his zeal to show that he can cut, say, chiffon shoulders into a tailored cape seem like overanxious attempts to speak in the old-world couture idiom. In fact, that┐s not what he needs to do to prove his worth. When a young designer finds the strength of his own voice, the world will listen, and Tisci should be encouraged to do just that.