"I'm inspired by clothes that are worn not because they are in fashion, but because they make women feel unique and confident," wrote Valentino in his program notes. The statement sums up his house's devotion to a loyal clientele of over 40 years, rather than to the often whimsical shifts of the fashion moment.

All of Valentino's well-known classics turned up on his runway: elegant tailleurs, glamorous gowns and plenty of sparkle. Day wear was forceful and strong: Black crepe suits with embroidered off-white georgette shirts, pinstripe trousers and fur-trimmed vests all had a masculine air to them. Red-and-beige tweed pantsuits, long plaid skirts and fishnet tops provided more casual alternatives.

Valentino's requisite evening gowns were mostly black crepe sheaths lavished with sequins; a strass-embroidered satin gown was embellished with panthers, and long taffeta dresses came generously ruffled. But no Valentino show would be complete without a shock of red: Alek Wek dazzled in a bias-cut backless number with a pinched waist and a sprinkle of ostrich feathers on the skirt.