In a season where designers have been heavily influenced by the golden era of couture, Karl Lagerfeld threw down the gauntlet with a sensational collection that eschewed runway fripperies in favor of thoughtful, wearable looks. He opened with airy separates and day-appropriate silhouettes, offering one impeccable ivory look after another.

The underwater theme surfaced eventually, and how could it not considering Lagerfeld’s latest stunning set piece, an underwater kingdom complete with Florence Welch serenading the crowd like a modern-day Venus on the scallop shell. But it took a skilled touch like Lagerfeld’s to know when to draw the line between reference and execution. Scuba-suit seaming, shell-like appliques, pleats resembling gills and ruffles that could pass for anemones were all kept light and whimsical.

Lagerfeld also experimented with form, rounding shoulders and adding touches of volume to sleeves and hips. Many wonder why it’s taking so long to find a replacement for John Galliano at Dior. Perhaps it’s because while many designers are capable of couture, the ability to conversely rein in creativity to present real options for women—well, let’s just say there’s only one Lagerfeld.

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