There are two ways to approach the task Hussein Chalayan accepted when he signed on to produce a demi-couture collection for Goga Ashkenazi's Vionnet. Observe and reinterpret the house's heritage for today or ignore it. It won't come as much of a surprise to those who've followed Chalayan's boundary-pushing career that he said he had opted for the latter path. "There are so many brands that are old, that are being revived," he explained beforehand. "It shouldn't be about revisiting the archives." Fair enough. To move the fashion dial forward, you have to look forward.

Chalayan chose industrial design as a starting point. Spiral staircases, furniture, electric wires—it was all laid out on a mood board at a preview. In the past, his conceptual approach extended his reach. Here, the "melting shelves" idea he used to create sculptural shapes fell a bit flat. Meanwhile, dresses in a print and embroidery motif derived from patternmakers' toiles—"a comment on dressmaking itself," he called it—looked stiff.

Some ideas adapted better to clothing design. The spiral staircases morphed into five-layer techno organza bias-cut dresses with single seams and laser-cut concentric circles in varying degrees of sheerness. Technically accomplished and lovely, they made a connection between Vionnet past and Vionnet future: The bias cut is credited to Madeleine Vionnet. Plissé was another hallmark of the house. Chalayan modernized it by printing only one side of the pleats and combining different kinds—sunray, straight, irregular—into halter dresses suspended from harness collars embellished with "electrified" beads. Unlike some other parts of the collection, the vibe here was right.