Designers Ed Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff have lately found themselves fashion darlings, fêted in publications ranging from Love to the Evening Standard's fashion supplement. Which is ironic, since the pair has made it their business to kick against the industry's pricks in every possible way. Most of today's capacity crowd probably expected another "fuck off" show, like those of recent vintage. Instead, they got a coup de théâtre—a dazzling, candy-colored spectacle that had a few showgoers shedding tears.

There was virtually no end to the mise-en-scène. The runway was decorated with balloon archways, where, to the strains of Meadham's beloved Hole, a gaggle of Courtney Love manqués appeared and applied lipstick en masse. Then they started dancing, and the models came out, taking lickety-split turns down the catwalk in check button-downs, vintage cartoon appliqués, fluffy pastel marabou coats, and little shifts and sculptured dresses with a wedding cake theme executed in couture-worthy broderie anglaise.

For the second act, a bunch of schoolgirl ballerinas emerged, then a curtain dropped behind them, revealing a Busby Berkeley-style tableau of models arrayed on a giant cake. They stepped onto the catwalk one by one, exhibiting peignoir-inspired pieces, showgirl sequined hot pants, and micro dresses that looked like baby-doll versions of the gowns Marie Antoinette used to wear. After the last model disappeared backstage, a lone ballerina climbed on top of the cake and twirled.

What was that about? And why was it all so oddly moving? This Meadham Kirchhoff collection was in many ways a return to the themes the designers addressed in Spring 2011. That show positively spit fury, though—protesting the ways women get hemmed in by expectations to be pretty and frilly, sexy and sweet. This time around, Meadham and Kirchhoff went through the looking glass, thought about what it means to be a girl, and came out the other side full of joy. Meadham said after the show that they'd been preoccupied with what he called "the girl on the cake": starlets, showgirls, beauty pageant winners, models, and princesses. "I wanted to take them off the cake, and put a real girl up there," he explained. A real girl, he went on, not defined by feminine frippery, though she may occasionally indulge in it. Meadham and Kirchhoff certainly do; this collection absolutely luxuriated in ruffles, spangles, and bubble-gum colors. All that sugar and spice was spun into a collection full of theatrical looks, yes, but it also included items you could actually and happily wear. No wonder people were crying. To paraphrase Courtney Love: Who doesn't want to be the girl with the most cake?