“For so long Versace couture was identified with celebrities and music, which I love,” said Donatella Versace. “But at the same time it could overwhelm the clothes. I want to state the difference between couture and ready-to-wear, and to appreciate that, you have to see the work close-up.” Thus she presented fifteen light-as-air fall outfits on transparent dressforms in a room facing onto a terrace in the Paris Ritz.

After couture customers and press jostled to gain entry, they were at their leisure to inspect the house’s handwork in detail, inside and out. The tightly edited collection summarized all the elements of Versace vision: the short, the ultra short, and the trailing, torso-cinching cutaway zingers. In shades of aqua, pale yellow, ice blue, powder green, quartz pink, and gold, everything was whipped up in barely there plissé chiffon and glinting embroidery. “The new strength is lightness,” quipped the designer, who appeared before guests looking considerably lighter herself, after a regime she puts down to “Just eating less. No gym, no weights. Boring, but it works!”

Although the fashion police were able to check off the correct positioning of every feather, diaphanous pleat, and sequin, there was still something to keep them guessing. By holding back her designs from the runway, Donatella reserves the full impact of her couture dresses—what happens when they are put through their paces by a heavenly body—for her clients. Take the lacy, cream-colored gown that Kate Hudson wore this year’s Oscars: it seemed to have come from nowhere, and it seemed to belong only to her. Restoring some of the mystique and sense of privacy to haute couture seems a well-considered move in a time when value-for-money factors into even the wealthiest calculations.