What on earth is happening to the Maison Martin Margiela? No one within the house has ever broken the code of omerta that forbids the utterance of inside information, but from the look of the collection—and the aghast expressions on the faces of the formerly avid consumers who lined the bleachers to watch it—it's nothing very good. The subject of whether or not the founder is still at the helm may be shrouded in mystery, but this much can be said: What was sent out for Spring was such a stuttering, ill-sequenced pastiche of the rigorous, witty, avant-garde thinking that used to stream out here that it is almost unkind to enumerate the ways in which it disappointed.

The press release announced that this collection was an investigation of "volume and texture" (but aren't they all?). In brief, the texture was paper and synthetic foil; the volume, various experiments in adding frontal attachments to jackets and extensions to the hind quarters of cutaway chaps. There was a lot going on with bodysuits and baggy scrunched-down boots, which at certain points involved trailing tapes. That was followed by an apparently random sequence of hyperreal tropical-scene photo prints—they looked like a genuinely bad-taste echo of Miuccia Prada's deliberately kitsch prints of the same sort of subject matter.

For the purposes of a "summery" theme, those prints will certainly provide bright T-shirts and commercial-looking printed beach bags to bulk up the Margiela stores. Some long, slim dresses might also appeal to the existing Margiela customer, once they're made less sheer, and shorn of the chains that dragged in their wake. Yet as streamers exploded overhead and the models came dancing out in white paper T-shirt dresses in a celebratory finale, nothing could dispel the deepening mood of despondency that sank over the exiting crowd.