Giambattista Valli spun a bucolic backstory for his Couture collection: nymphs, fairies, silvery reflections in woodland ponds. And the Master's Margarita, witchy and wanton in her dealings with the devil. Ain't couture grand! Remarkably, these pagan sentiments almost managed to infiltrate the clothes. They certainly shaped the prints.

Valli was thinking that the couture dream is so far away from what constitutes "fashion" in most people's minds that he could follow his fantasy into some timeless realm, a place where the transience of beauty was arrested, kind of like the dreamy fairyland in Ridley Scott's Legend. It was a lovely idea, embodied by models whose veiled heads were studded with butterflies. But the clothes didn't match the concept.

That was partly a function of Valli's solid grounding in Roman alta moda. If the prints brought the moda, the silhouettes looked merely alta, ruffled to discomfort, extended into traditional volumes that looked… er… stuffy.

There were moments when the concept crossed over into glamorous conviction. A coat designed to look like the grass of a woodland glade had a shaggy splendor. A sequin underskirt shimmered like sunlight on water. The final outfit, an orgy of ruffles, had a tenebrous sensuality. Otherwise, Valli's party-girl froth went off the fizz with this collection.