It takes a lot—a gilding of genius, in fact—for a designer to drag several hundred tired, hard-bitten professionals to a bleak industrial shell on the outskirts of Paris, and then send them away feeling ecstatic. That, though, is what Alber Elbaz did in a show that was a bombardment of emotional and visual pleasure. It climaxed in an overload of color, glitter, and originality: the sight of dozens of girls marching, with a furious glamour, along a runway so long it seemed to stretch into a foggy infinity.

The collection was a triumph of breathtaking technical achievement: drapey, pleated jumpsuits in polyester ("like collapsing fabric," Elbaz said); a candy-store array of pink, salmon, peach, and vermilion; a dash of extraordinary fine leather (an unforgettable carnation red dress); and a buildup of encrusted gold sequins and jewelry. The designer didn't really have words to sum up the powerful, slow-building impact of the vision he'd created. All he'd talk about were the technical difficulties of handling the polyester, making spirals of ruffles, inventing a soft, puffy form of quilting for coats, and how he'd ended up layering one dress on another to make a whole.

And, in fact, it didn't open all that promisingly. The first passage Elbaz fielded was in black, with ruffles—the familiar Lanvin aesthetic that is visible in stores worldwide. Only when he got past the tailoring and into the intense passage of developments of plissé (a kind of modern, abstract Fortuny pleating), as well as the navy and mushroom jumpsuits, did the mood lift and the audience realize that something incredible was transpiring. In the end, as the girls—headed by the crop-haired Iris Strubegger and a rivetingly intense Karlie Kloss—walked back into the darkness under a giant Art Deco chandelier, every head in the crowd strained to take in the last glimpse of a collection that will be remembered for a very long time.