Roberto Cavalli threw down a gauntlet to his competition with his Pre-Fall collection. It was realized with such extreme opulence that the challenge was obvious—Who does this best?—the implied answer being, of course, equally inescapable. And, truth be told, it was hard to argue with clothes that so successfully conveyed an impression of a lifestyle so ludicrously, cinematically over the top that it doesn't really give a fig what you think.

Cavalli's secret weapon is his Florentine atelier, where Renaissance workmanship expertly crafts 21st-century excess. Studded biker leathers, silks heaving with embroidery, and tapestry knits were all shaped into a Pre-Fall collection for modern-day Medicis, with griffins, dragons, and other mythological creatures offering another overlay of visual interest in the extravagant accessories. But the thrust of the season for Cavalli was an authoritative reclamation of the animal/reptile prints that are more his signature than any other designer's. Leopard was bias-cut into strips or pleated together with silk. Tiger was rendered in dramatic monochrome embroidery. A column dress was covered with petals of gilded leather, duplicating a crocodile's hide. Cavalli achieved a kind of paradox: clothes that were extreme without being flashy.

The flash he saved for the flowers he loves almost as much as his big cats. They were printed, beaded, and layered into a psychedelic overload. Again, the paradox: psychedelic but not lurid. Cavalli will be 74 this year. Guess that qualifies him as an Old Master. If age won't, the work will.