The invitation safety-pinned a piece of fishnet to a piece of cardboard. The run of show named outfits after "Anarchy in the U.K." and "London Calling." And that was Sid's "My Way" playing as we walked in. All held the promise that Jean Paul Gaultier would parade punk couture, hardly a new idea for him, and not exactly a thrilling prospect for us, especially given that the designer has been going through a dry spell of late. But something magical happened on Gaultier's catwalk today. A living legend got his mojo back. Maybe the split with Hermès fired him up, maybe his upcoming career retrospective in Montreal got him thinking about his greatest bits. Whatever, it worked.

As far as the punk theme went, there were elaborate Mohawk hairdos (tulle cascaded from the bride's at the finale), the odd dog collar, and some cropped bomber jackets. One of them was crusted with metal pearls. Another, gracing an outfit named "Vicious," was indeed decorated with chains and studs, but it was draped over a black crepe sheath with a flounce of tulle. The ripped 'n' torn aesthetic was in full effect with an ensemble that featured a raggedy beaded top and a silk skirt falling to pieces. (Dégradé is couture's take on punk.) And, at a very glamorous pinch, the perforated black leather jacket and skirt fit the theme, but what his punk starting point really bestowed on this collection was rigor and focus.

Gaultier has always been a brilliant tailor, and here he applied his genius to a pinstripe jumpsuit and matching jacket; a white suit with a corseted torso and ruching rounding out the hips; a gown that used almost straitjacketlike straps to make its sensually tense point; and a tuxlike pantsuit—with frog closing—in an organza covered with passementerie. That last item was the sort of thing you'd only see at a couture show—and probably only this one, to boot.

Something else Gaultier has always been—the most Parisian of designers. A cancan froth of silk tulle ruffles peaked out here and there before finally erupting into a full-on, high-kicking finale, courtesy of Psykko Tico, from the Crazy Horse. Gaultier revisited his favorite alt-Parisienne, the concierge, in a printed mousseline jumpsuit wrapped in a long cardigan in a similar print. And his signature piece—the trench—gained a new length, lost a shoulder, and came up rose-colored. He called this outfit "I Am an Anarchist." But only in a world where ugliness rules.