Every so often, a fashion show is really a show. Giles Deacon didn’t stint on the theatrics tonight as he debuted his new collection—not only did the clothes possess a rather Grand Guignol sense of drama, but each of the (A-list) models in the cast was instructed to bring some character to the catwalk. The event was capped by Anna Cleveland—Pat’s daughter—pirouetting around the show space in a fan-pleated cocktail dress and vertiginous Jimmy Choo mules. Impressive.

The character thing wasn’t just for fun. As Deacon explained after the défilé, his collection was meant to conjure the spirits of the women who might have ambled the lanes of the Chelsea Physic Garden in the years close after its founding in 1673. Hence the collection’s séance quality, with ruffs, capes, and frock coats giving way to hallucinogenic prints such as the salon scene rendered in lurid colors on duchesse satin. If some of these clothes seemed a little de trop, that was the point—one does not design a corset-tailored, ruff-collared duchesse jacket with seemingly electrified feathers sprouting from the sleeve in a spirit of understatement. Same goes for leather, bow-decked pantaloons.

But for all the severity of, say, the patent frock coat modeled by Edie Campbell, the look was still realistic. So were the gorgeous ruffled white shirts, the strapless pencil dress in a gothic jacquard worn by Jessica Stam, and the flared wool coat with lacing detail on Lily Donaldson. And so on. As a whole, the collection could seem forbidding—the superb tailoring alone approached S&M dungeon levels of discipline—but this was actually a pretty accessible outing for Deacon if you considered it in terms of its parts. Likewise, for all the darkness here, it was plain that Deacon was having a great deal of fun as he raised his ghosts of fashion past. His was a haunted house you’d like to visit.

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