"Beauty can be frightening," Ann Demeulemeester declared today. Quite what she meant by that was semi-clarified by a show that was, she said, inspired by "the duality of butterflies," solid bug versus ethereal wings. So it figured that her new collection was a thing of strong extremes. Her butterflies didn't flutter by—they kicked butt. There was a flavor of manga martial arts in the super-short, corset-belted dresses and jackets over jackets. They represented a tough new stance for Demeulemeester. "Without losing the poetry," she was quick to add: That came in the form of pagan priestesses in floor-sweeping gowns. But even those outfits were edged in by anatomical leather harnesses.

It was time, the designer felt, for something new. A new sleeve, for instance. As Demeulemeester hiked skirts, she let sleeves fly away like wings, or she folded them closer to the body, like wings at rest. The long, flowing silk gowns, on the other hand, had a different kind of airiness, billowing rather than streaming, neo-medieval, monastic. "I didn't know what year it was," Demeulemeester said post-show. Year zero, perhaps, of a new chapter in her career.

And how did beauty have the potential to be frightening? For Demeulemeester, it was all about that insectoid duality. Light and dark. Beautiful and deadly.