Before her show today, Barbara Bui defended denim as a "noble" material. Its usual destiny as a sturdy fabric need not preclude it from being made over into a more delicate, decadent, or decorated state of being. (Some trivia: The etymology of denim is actually French, as in de Nîmes—from Nîmes). In the role of fairy godmother, Bui transformed it by shearing, fraying, sculpting, embroidering, and adding appliqué and monochromatic beading for textural dimension. She also paid homage to denim with blousons in faded blue leather and python. Bui's bandeau underpinnings and bloomer/sport-short hybrids skewed young, although the designer said she'd have no qualms wearing the latter.

Bui was smart, though, to hedge her bets with jackets. The least classic came cropped and boxy; oversized and sans sleeves; rounded and paneled in leather; or long, pleated, and worn as a shoulder cape. The designer established early on in her career that she knows how to cut a pant—here, she shifted her skills upward and succeeded.

In the last quarter, Bui showed two rubber toppers printed with a red engraved flora print, followed by a poppy-red organza suit that dictated a looser fit and benefited from a higher waist. The digression felt odd, if only because it was so short lived. The footwear, meanwhile, stayed entirely fixed on oxfords vented to resemble sandals, or laceless white versions tipped in metal bits to catch the light. By eschewing heels, Bui altered the spirit of her line more radically than with her focus on the humble blue jean. Her signature stilettos may yet appear by the time the collection hits stores, but on the runway, at least, these steps pushed her brand forward.