As the cliché goes, Alessandra Facchinetti has big shoes to fill at Valentino. Today she slipped into them with the tact and sensitivity of a young Italian who appreciates the storied heritage of the house, but is quietly resolved to say something to a new generation. "I think the things Valentino created were timeless," she said. "I wanted to take something from the cleanliness of the sixties structure, but at the same time make things soft and light. But there is nothing too obvious."

In modernizing the Valentino standards, the day suit, the coat, the frothy blouse, the delicate dress, and the red gown are just a few of Facchinetti's challenges. In this first outing, appropriately low-key and staged on a small runway, she managed to demonstrate enough of a flair for fragility, precision, and pristine finish to make sense of them. Most importantly, though, she quietly cut through the potential for twee to show how a modern girl might wear Valentino today. The show began with a pale beige-tinted cashmere suit with a stand-up collar and a skirt gathered into deep folds in front, followed by an off-white chiffon sleeveless dress with a belled, multilayered feathery skirt, belted with an enameled metal bow. That struck a sound note—respectful, but not too sweet—that followed through in Facchinetti's handling of chiffon blouses with petaled necklines, vertically pleated dresses inset with abstract garlands of 3-D flowers, and two pleated georgette dresses that captured something essential about the romantic, drifty fantasy of a Valentino woman's lifestyle.

At the end, Facchinetti had the courage to put out two red chiffon dresses that, if pretty, fell some way short of the traditional Val showstoppers. Still, she had her own moment of head-turning excellence. It came when she put an immaculately cut black coat with a beautiful uprising scroll of a flounce in the back over a fluttery pink chiffon dress. That was the number that had women chattering as they left the room—proof enough that Facchinetti had survived her baptism by fire.