Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, Valentino
's former accessory designers, had a hard entry into the haute milieu of couture last season. Though anointed by the approval of their former boss, their first outing was so stiff and reverent it seemed as though the house would be fossilized in the past. So today it was good to see the pair breaking away into a collection of pretty (but not too saccharine) black, lacy, ruffled dresses that, layered over nude, had much more delicacy and leggy youthfulness. Some of them had the simplicity of T-shirts; others came with short dance skirts, bustled and ruffled and sometimes glinting with muted silver beading. Close up, the workmanship that went into each ripple and shadowy layer of tulle was inimitably precious, yet somehow the designers successfully dodged the hazard of veering into overdone froufrou. The collection wasn't entirely perfect—the boxy coats seemed to come out of an old-world time warp, and the presence of so many evening dresses tipped the end of the show too safe. Still, there was a lot here to indicate a good sense of direction, although it'll be a couple of seasons more to see if these designers can follow through in a consistent way.