Rei Kawakubo's theme this season, "tailoring for punks," could almost have been applied to her earliest years with Comme des Garçons, when the formality of the style and the ferocity of the attitude combined to create the blueprint that prevails to this day. In reality, the show itself was a notably polite affair. From the outset—a slim black duffel, a lean skirt, chisel-toed shoes and socks—the emphasis was on an elegance that was almost Edwardian. Immaculately tailored pieces in classic fabrics like houndstooth and Prince of Wales check certainly spoke to that era. The retro preciousness of the kiss curls sported by the models also harked back to another time.

The theme was more explicit in the items that matched sartorial cut to punk thrust, like the diagonal biker zip that bisected a pinstriped blazer and a checked jacket, or the slashes that opened up another jacket. But that intimation of violence was the closest the collection came to punk's iconoclastic rush. Fact is, such a thing is felt, not thought, and it's scarcely the kind of emotion designed for analysis.

Kawakubo's creative cross-fertilization with punk's dowager, Vivienne Westwood, has yielded some career highs. Here, she may even have been stirring up the past when she accessorized her models with gaudy crowns by Christian Astuguevieille, just like Viv did so memorably decades ago. But Rei's punk princelings could have done with the frisson of a Johnny or a Sid.