What does Versace couture look like when the celebs, the models, and even the runway are subtracted from the equation? That was the question foremost in the minds of the audience invited to view a static presentation of ten Spring gowns, shown on mannequins, in the house’s Paris store.

As it turned out, the exhibit—inspired by the powerful staging of a Gianni Versace retrospective at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum—offered a rare opportunity to scrutinize the workmanship of the atelier close up and in the round. Taking "evening" as a literal theme, Donatella Versace made up for the absence of pounding music and paparazzi with a different kind of after-dark drama. Most of the dresses were in shades of night—black through deep gray and inky blue, ending with bursts of moonbeam white and silver done in crystal and tulle. The designer worked signature elements of the house’s style—corseted torsos, rivulets of chiffon skirts and finely worked jet beading—for maximum impact, creating a sense of mystery and glamour that could easily have been lost in the flurry of a runway show.

It was a smart point to make. In times like these, designers need to demonstrate the full value of what they can do for their clients. And understanding the dynamics of the red carpet is one of the things Donatella does best.