Stefano Pilati said he had been inspired by "violets, which to the Greeks symbolized modesty, humility, and virginity—and the feeling of transition from spring into summer." To that end, he laid out one of the prettiest—yet most hazardous—runways ever trodden by models in spike-heel platforms: a deep, earthen lawn planted with hundreds of living purple violas. In theory, it was poetic, but the girls┐ tentative, anxiety-raising progress created an unfortunate distraction that disrupted the viewing of Pilati┐s most beautiful pieces.

The best of them came toward the end—a section of gowns in purple or violet-printed chiffon with billowy, flyaway skirts, and the white flower-garlanded halter-necked finale dress, cut to fall erotically away from the back. Pilati┐s conceptual journey to this point was, however, trickier to follow. It started promisingly with black-and-white picnic check, well cut into a tightly belted, slope-shouldered Parisian-chic coat with a high-necked ruffle blouse. The recurring spring-flower theme built into clusters of fragile, white cutout organdy violets in a tuxedo shirt, petal-smothered skirts, and 3-D leather decorations trailing from bags. Other standouts were a black swing-back shirtdress with a white cotton bib; a short nude organza cocktail dress, piped in black; and the odd toughening elements, like belted leather shell tops. The difficulty? In the pants. Like several designers in Paris, Pilati is applying himself to thinking a way out of skinnies. It┐s a project that eventually will reach some attractive conclusion—but his baglike lowering of crotch to ankle is, to put it kindly, not quite there yet.