Alexander McQueen, environmentalist? That was the unexpected message that emanated from the mouth of a runway that was backed by a video projection of a revolving Earth, and flanked by a zoo of stuffed animals: an elephant, giraffe, polar bear, lion, and assorted other endangered species. McQueen explained, through program notes, that he had been pondering Charles Darwin, the survival of the fittest, and the deleterious results of industrialization on the natural world.

Strangely, the thought didn't set off one of his angry forays into the destructive side of human psychology. If anything, the beginning of the show—the section that dealt with a world untouched by man—unbuttoned the romanticism and delicacy that is, paradoxically, the strongest side of McQueen's appeal. Though his shapes hardly wavered from his signature frock coats, skinny-leg pants, and hourglass silhouettes, the wood-print tailoring was more fluid and some of the dresses exceptional. Pink or lemon flowers were trapped beneath short, nude netting shifts, and two of the season's most sublime forms of fringing came draped across the body in dégradé gray or swishing in pink filaments from a flapper dress.

McQueen's couture sensibilities are breathtaking in close-up, where the detail of flowers and birds becomes visible in lace underlayers and then echoed in lace ankle-wrappings incorporated in shoes. He also gave himself over to a long passage of bright, multicolored allover prints, engineered to fit around jackets, leggings, and cocoon dresses—new on the Paris runway, but also part of general trend emanating from London's young designers. Even as the show moved into evening and the part that symbolized the negative impact of twenty-first-century evolution, the black crystal-encrusted dresses and bodysuits never quite descended into melodrama. McQueen said he "doesn't want to preach" about such a serious subject. More likely, he wants to sell next Spring, and this collection, with its color, detail, and eased-up tailoring, looks likely to be one of his most commercially viable.