Gilles Mendel cited the French photographer Guy Bourdin, master of erotic innuendo, as his touchstone. In the seventies, Bourdin shot fashion like a high-gloss crime scene—black latex, sharp heels, sprawling legs, and the like. And Mendel's most prominent pieces for Spring did have a whiff, if not of danger, at least of haute disco dash: off-the-shoulder silk mousseline, for instance, that caught seductively at the hips, and tiered columns trimmed with (what else?) gold lamé.

Overall, however, the more sexed-up approach didn't play to Mendel's strong points of sophistication and romance. What's more, in a seeming attempt to keep his balance, he latched on to some complicated and couture-like lattice and pleating techniques, crisscrossing them in (too) many variations throughout. In the end, of course, he couldn't resist a painted flower here and a lace insert there, and in those vie en rose touches the real Gilles shone through.