Only a man as obsessed as Ralph Rucci could consider a sixty-four-look show "a tight edit." The night before his presentation, he was running seventy-eight, unheard of in this day and age, when around thirty outfits is the maximum number that designers care to show. But Rucci is barely of this day and age. The intricacy and refinement of his workmanship have always located him in another era, when connoisseurship of clothing counted for the kind of clientele that still shows up for him and ovates furiously when he takes his bow at the end. But while the clock might be ticking for them, Rucci has managed the rare feat of transcending temporal limitations. Yes, there were some outfits in his latest show that spoke to the needs of ambassadors' wives and lady tycoons of a certain age, but on the whole, the collection he offered was so lean, light, and fierce that sixty-four looks flew by like they were…well, thirty.

It was all the more remarkable when you consider that his materials were python, gazar, organza—the fine stuff of the couture that is his natural habitat, but treated here with a casual confidence. An ivory slipdress in matte python? A bubble of hand-painted organza, layered over a black leather skirt? They showed a relaxed side of Rucci that his longtime boosters have longtime hankered for. Technique is technique—it can enhance an evening dress but it can also elevate a T-shirt. That's what Rucci did to great effect here. One dressy look featured a torrent of electric fringes (he called them "eyelashes," and who are we to disagree?); another, equally effective, was not much more than an elongated tank in sheer black silk, slashed to the thigh over a little black sheath.

There is always a point in his shows when Rucci takes his technical mastery for a walk. In this collection, that meant a crepe jacket whose midriff was made up of a "barbed wire" in black leather, or a wrap coat in laser-cut broadtail, or a dress in the basket-weave technique that looked like something he'd borrowed from a samurai's suit. There was a time when such effects would overwhelm Rucci's shows and leave you awed but somewhat breathless. With time, he's learned to oxygenate those moments. It's lightness that prevails now: jackets slashed and reconstituted with tulle-filled seams, tunics of gloriously shimmering paillettes, trailing laces and fringes to loan movement. And most memorable of all, the aprons that Rucci wrapped around waists, in metal mesh or black velvet or bugle beads over pants. "The new suit," he called the look. And that's exactly how it looked—new.