He went down Mexico way. All the way. He had a mariachi band. He had gauchos, sombreros, striped peasant blankets, Spanish shawls, and cigars. He had a conquistador moment—and then he was into the jungle, weaving leaves with indigenous peoples.

Apparently, Jean Paul Gaultier had been to an exhibition about Moctezuma, the Aztec emperor, in London last year, and that—with the side influence of Avatar's tribal-eco message—is what set him off in this direction.

Yet, why? As Arielle Dombasle, a French icon of renown, took to the stage lip-synching as Carmen Miranda and Gaultier skipped out to greet her, it felt like a camp ritual—motions being gone through just because that's what Gaultier does or what he thinks people expect from him.

But Jean Paul Gaultier is far, far better than this, and if he'd only release himself from the pressure to "theme" his shows, his genius might shine all the brighter. Flashes of it were there in his tailoring—in a tailcoat over a pale pink-beige jet-beaded T-shirt and long skirt, for example, and a couple of jumpsuits. There were undeniable riches, too, as when Gaultier laid on intense top-to-toe fringing, beading, and warriorlike armor (even metal claws at one point). But still. Here's a man who could make mincemeat of any competition in Paris when it comes to tailoring, and this is a time when women are crying out for daywear, sportswear, any kind of wear that is clean, stripped back, and new. It's a shame he's not seizing that agenda.