Rick Owens, the author of a silver lamé tissue dress drifting transparently into a billow at the back? Or a series of pearly gray duchesse satin coats that resembled abstract versions of classic Cristobal Balenciaga? For a designer who's so often categorized as walking on the dark side, it was a conscious breakthrough. "I lightened up," he said. "I've always insisted on a certain monochromatic vision, but I was toying with pretty this time. Something on the way to sumptuous."

We are not, of course, talking about a night-to-day abandonment of principles. Owens' aesthetic choices were as true to himself as ever, though on the runway (to begin with, at least) his conceptual direction seemed hard to fathom. The silhouettes—divided into asymmetric, geometrically angled biker jackets; stiff, papery apron tunics; and a narrow tabard of fabric that kept whipping between the models' legs—seemed awkward, almost as if the designer were trying to distract from the fact that the sweeping coats he was showing were edging toward a conventional, nearly couturelike grandeur.

As cultish and extreme as Owens' runway styling can seem, though, it's always been an open secret that his pieces appeal to a broad church. Aside from the bodysuits, sheer one-shoulder tops, and jersey harness affairs, there were flow-y black wide-legged jumpsuits and tailored jackets with an upward flange on the shoulder that could be a chic addition to many a grown-up woman's wardrobe. And when he finally worked up to the silver lamé dress—and its close relations in white and liquid copper—any sense of difficulty and puzzlement completely evaporated. "Pretty," as Owens put it, doesn't really do them justice. They were beautiful.