Like Rei Kawakubo, who counts herself a fan, Walter Van Beirendonck is fearless in his assault on fashion orthodoxy. He's militant too, except that the designer's burly, bearded army takes aim at what he sees as fashion's close-mindedness dressed in pink and plaid and combat shorts with a pie-crust frill, all together in the same outfit and wrapped in a big pink bow.

But Van Beirendonck's seriousness of purpose is quite clear. His new collection was called Read My Skin, and it included a pastel-colored group of suits, shirts, and shorts "scarified" with words like "fear," "faith," and "hope," alongside slogans like "PoetsUnite." The results were anything but didactic. The scarification created an effect similar to broderie anglaise, which, in tandem with the powder pink and blue, was disconcertingly pretty.

Van Beirendonck likes disconcerting, but he also likes playful. He mixed florals and plaids, and wrapped a couple of outfits in elongated tiger and crocodile knapsacks by London accessories company Chris&Tibor—enough to bring out the kid in anyone. The in-yer-face finale featured bodybuilders in breastplates of pearls and colored stones; look closely at their candy-colored combats and you saw the word "hope" again. The same word was on the invitation, in large letters that looked peppered with bullet holes. Perhaps the designer was reminding us that hope is a fragile thing.