Ann Demeulemeester doesn't travel. "I never saw a desert," she said after her show. "It's in my head." And on her runway, which was covered with sand. The setting was enhanced by the desolate wind that howled on the soundtrack, and Nico's equally desolate Desertshore. Demeulemeester was reluctant to acknowledge the nineteenth-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud's self-exile in Africa as a major influence on her collection because she felt literalizing the mood would weaken its impact, but she needn't have worried. Even without the Rimbaud backstory, what came across was the idea of cultures interweaving: the cut and cloth of European clothes being slowly infected by orientalism and intangible mystery.

The idea was obvious in the sheer silk tulle smocks that veiled almost everything. The formal shawl-collared jackets and waistcoats layered over tunics and britches were lifted straight from a poet-recently-turned-desert-nomad's wardrobe. Maybe that's why the clothes had a tougher edge than Demeulemeester's usual poetic romanticism. "Beauty is our weapon," her husband Patrick Robyn declared after the show. Rimbaud himself was, after all, a lover and a fighter.