Tonight at Givenchy the photographers were kicking up a fuss about Kim and Kanye, as usual. We were back at the Halle Freyssinet, and the show was once more in the round accompanied by live performers. But beyond those first-impression factors, we saw a very different Riccardo Tisci. The hothouse flowers, the Disney deer, the mad bunching of fabrics around the waistline from Fall—all gone. In their place was something that was by comparison rather restrained, every last look gliding out calmly on flat sandals.

Tisci is one of the most popular high-fashion designers working today; members of his fan club are instantly identifiable in their graphic tees and sweatshirts. Backstage he hinted that it was time to do something else, and smartly so. He had the same inclination a year ago and turned to ecclesiastical ruffles. For 2014, he's done a lot of thinking about Japan and Africa. "It's a car crash of the two cultures—the fragility of Japan and the draping of Africa," he said. To underline his point, Tisci had a smoking pileup of vintage Benzes, BMWs, and Jaguars in the center of the runway.

The crash was lurid in its made-for-Instagram way, a counterpoint to the clothes, which were elegant not quite to the point of refusal. Kimono-inflected suits came with twisted lapels, flaring sleeves, and interplays of matte and shine, with a filmy little layer between jacket and pants—like stepping out the door in your silk robe and pajamas. Dresses were draped a hundred different ways: from a ring below the throat, from an integral necklace that dipped to the navel, from a rugged leather strap slung over the shoulders like suspenders. To begin, Tisci showed them in stretch jersey, and by the end they were awash in pastel embroidery, or pleated and strewn with sequins, slinking quickly into flashy territory. The jersey dresses were the ones that resonated. They were thousands of miles away from last season, and still indisputably Tisci.