With his generally well-received Balenciaga debut in the rearview mirror, Alexander Wang felt encouraged to go beyond the homage phase today. Where that first show had a certain purity of form with its direct lines to Cristóbal Balenciaga, his new effort had a sense of experiment and play. If the result was more uneven, it also pointed to potentially fruitful avenues of development. And it's fair to say you saw clearer glimpses of Wang in it, especially with the opening pieces—a muscle tee, a tank, glorified running shorts, and Perfecto jackets. This was sporty streetwear, in other words, albeit executed in densely handwoven leather braid.

"The idea was to start strong and austere, and let that unravel," Wang said earlier. "I want to bring ease into the DNA and codes of the house that I'm working with." He presented the new collection at the Observatoire de Paris, a lofty space that has apparently never been used for a fashion show before. Wang knows the value in being first, and that appreciation informed the materials he developed. Molded leather that was embroidered with thread and then printed with a swirling floral motif, along with those hand-braided pieces, are prime examples of innovation, where couture and twenty-first-century technology meet. But they looked somewhat stiff. A trio of dresses—meringues of ruffles suspended from corset bodies—erred on the overwrought side, too.

The clothes got better as the show went on, and rigidity gave way to the ease that Wang was talking about. He cut an excellent new pant, high-waisted and with a tulip-shaped peplum that curved over the hips, and he showed this item with crop tops made from a crushed, pressed, and laser-cut printed fabric that came off as quite effortless despite the crazy amount of work that must have gone into them. Paired with elegant silk cape-back tops in white or black, for a more dressed-up evening look, those trousers were handily the hits of the show. Elsewhere, caped jackets just long enough to legitimately be called dresses, as well as their barely more demure sisters with sheer organza veils, emanated a cool confidence.

Wang is learning as he goes at Balenciaga. No one said it was going to be straightforward; quite the opposite, in fact. But his idea of injecting ease into the house codes is a good one, and those chic evening pieces point to a viable way forward.