With a nod in the direction of Russia—and perhaps a wink to the female members of the superspending emergent oligarchy—Valentino opened his Fall couture show with a black swing coat heavily decorated with folkloric embroidery. He took his themes from Russian palaces, art treasures, and handicrafts, but themes never deflect this designer too far from his lifetime's focus, which is simply to make his women feel special. By outfit three, a superb bubble coat in black duchesse satin that was reminiscent of the fifties but perfect for a young woman of today, it was apparent he was going to break up the references with a few beautiful pieces untethered to any narrative.

Bell-skirted cocktail dresses and skirt suits in embroidered tweed or topped with minute gold-lace cardigans could bear a glancing resemblance to Russian dolls or icons—but it doesn't really matter. What does is that the silhouettes look young and right for the moment, and that the handwork is extraordinary. Evening dresses stood as a master class in the flawless refinement that has been his trademark since he opened for business in Rome in 1959. One in particular, a draped black-chiffon goddess gown with an asymmetric shoulder strap fastened with a ribbon cockade, had a timeless beauty any woman would cherish. In the week that he celebrates his Légion d'honneur, the audience gave Valentino loud applause for the lifelong and unwavering pursuit of his vision.