The little green letters on the front cover of the collection notes read "PE," and for one delirious moment in this season of World Cup fashion madness, it seemed we were in for some physical education in deluxe Hermès style. But no. "PE" stood for printemps-été, and designer Véronique Nichanian was less interested in themes than summer clothes, plain and simple. The collarless shirts, waistcoats, and wide-legged pants, worn with espadrilles and a knotted kerchief, wouldn't have been out of place on a Provençal farm laborer. And Nichanian's evening proposition—a collarless black cotton-piqué shirt paired with black trousers—was just as unostentatious.

Given the unimpeachable luxury credentials of the French label (last season's red croc coat, priced at $145,000, was a traffic-stopper in more ways than one), Nichanian's vision for the new season looked surprisingly proletarian—at least at first glance. On closer inspection, the details of touch and technique became apparent. Take the tweedy blouson that opened the show, for instance. It was actually constructed of intricately woven calfskin, as was a hooded top. That begs a question, though: Given Nichanian's perhaps admirable refusal to indulge in just-for-the-catwalk theatrics, might the subtleties of these clothes be better appreciated in a more intimate showroom setting?