Duality is fundamental to a Giambattista Valli collection. In today's show, it was as elementary as the black-white dichotomy of the cape and dress, and as complex as the boy-girl thing that shaped the opening sequence of gamine looks (see the patent oxfords where the Valli girl is more usually elevated in heels). The connection between the two might be the quality that Valli calls "contemporaneity." He wants everything to be immediate, or, as he said after his show, "I want to arrive three minutes before a woman is thinking about getting dressed."

That being the case, his show today was probably his most successful, in that it was his most urgent. There was precious little room for the froufrou that used to make Valli's presentations such an infectious delight. In fact, when it got down to basics, the show was one more testament to the power of this designer's personality. How else to explain that coterie of gorgeous young female fans, because his clothes were actually rather chaste, not at all the brazen billboards of va-va-voom you might expect from someone with his party-hearty rep. Necklines were high, silhouettes were schoolgirl-simple, the palette was primarily monochrome black and white, bar rare injections of pink, red, and acid yellow. Valli's sole visual was a tulip print he'd lifted from a Flemish painting. It was striking in a sheath that was diagonally intersected by a drape of black crepe. The same idea was beautifully, simply expressed in a shell top in black and white, again divided diagonally.

Valli used the goat fur that has been Fall's default position for girls gone wild, but the overwhelming impression of his collection was restraint—it was streamlined and locked up tight. Maybe that makes sense, given that he's just closed the books on his first five years in business. But you can't help craving a Giamba breakout.