Religion and sex have always gone hand in hand, the basest instincts transmogrified into spirituality—even martyrdom—by ardent denial. As a good Catholic boy from Southern Italy, Riccardo Tisci has a finely tuned sense of the power and allure of both saintliness and sin, but he's never managed to integrate them quite as successfully as he did tonight. The setup—air thick with incense and a sonorously churchy organ to get us in an appropriately reverent mood while we sat…and sat…and sat—had the slight saveur of cheese on communion wafer, but when dozens of models poured in rapid-fire succession through a lily-bedecked archway, the sheer animal drive of Tisci's vision crushed cynicism like a bug.

He said that "the cult of communion" was his starting point. A brocade of a child's communion gown could have looked innocent, but Tisci spookily printed it with vestigial faces that looked like the Shroud of Turin's sisters. In the same way, his plays with layering and proportion would have more easily suggested priestly vestments—there was indeed a certain virtuousness in the white collar that peeked from under black coats—if they hadn't been cut from an ice-pink duchesse satin. If the aprons and flaps also evoked Westwood and McLaren's Clothes for Heroes, that's only because the idea of punk priests seemed made in Tisci heaven. Punk popes too, in the papal-red details on tees printed with abstract Madonna faces.

And that's Madonna as in "Mother of Christ" rather than La Ciccone, whose current tour has brought Tisci's clothes to the massed millions. The designer had artists reinterpret classic religious imagery to provide the collection's graphic meat, the tees and sweats that have made Tisci's work for Givenchy such a visible presence around the world. There is some irony in that fact, given that he arrived on the scene as a precision cutter of razor-sharp tailoring. Obviously, that was still pristine-present and correct tonight. A blouson or a double-breasted jacket layered over a long shirt is almost as much of a Tisci signature as a jumbo tee. Almost! In mere months, the Virgin Mary will be as inescapable as birds of paradise are now, and rottweilers were then.