A blush-pink feather headdress? A sliver of bias-cut silk slip—with a train? In turquoise? "That's teal!" corrected the designer, Gareth Pugh, laughing. But really, it was closer to turquoise, with nail varnish on the models to match. The most un-Gareth Pugh color ever was utilized here, to startling effect, in the opening look of the show: a twisted combination of showgirl, drag queen, and the Pugh we know.

This was a collection to confound expectations of the designer—and purposefully so. "We sometimes have the tendency to rein things in," said Pugh after his show. "With this collection, I wanted to go against that. It's that idea that if you're pleasing everyone, you're doing something wrong! Sometimes you're trapped in the expectations of what other people think of you." Professing the influence of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard and Julianne Moore in Safe—"I wanted the collection to be immaculate but hysteric somehow"—Pugh was certainly looking in the right place. The exaggerated makeup, designed for the early days of the silver screen, was combined with the wipe-clean world of Safe, the latter hinted at with the stylized/sterilized molded-plastic garments. This was something of a deluxe cabin-fever collection, of people going nuts on estates in Southern California. There were new elements combined with the codes of the old Pugh; the designer had originally made his name with plastic garments with "architectonic" constructions, and in recent collections he has moved to something more romantic, with his linear constructions somehow softened. Here the defined linearity was back; the cuts were crisp, the silhouettes stiffened; there was a debt to traditional Japanese clothing. But a notion also emerged of purposeful, cartoonish "glamour" and of a playful suburban feel of "swimming pools and chlorine. I really wanted the audience to wade through a footbath before taking their seats," said Pugh. Although that would have ruined everyone's shoes, of course.

There was something mischievous, something badly behaved about this collection. Lindsey Wixson made an appearance on the catwalk—a very un-Pugh model, usually—and she brought to mind the blow-up doll from Roxy Music's "In Every Dream Home a Heartache." This collection might not have had the immediacy and outright power of Pugh's last, but that's probably inevitable when the designer's rebelling against himself—the finale song was Queen's "I Want to Break Free." Sometimes it's necessary to do that; a transition in order to gather a new sense of self. Paris could just be the place where designers, in general, rebel this season—and it needs to happen for fashion to move forward. Pugh's collection might well herald a new mood.