Valentino's latest collection was presented as a static installation. The idea was that a crowd of gilded young men were propping up a nightclub bar while they waited for a showgirl revue to start. On came the lido dancers, off they trooped, and that was it. (The models' lack of interest in the bare-breasted women behind them seemed unfeigned.) It was a curiously low-key affair—or as low-key as anything featuring a half-naked female in a huge feathered getup in the middle of the day could be—especially after last season's sumptuous parade of menswear at its best.

But the muted presentation actually suited the clothes. The emphasis was solidly on the classic: double-breasted suits, peak-lapelled sport jackets, gray flannels, pinstripes, windowpane checks, polka dots. Valentino's signature luxe was evident in the cut and the fabrics—in fact, it was easy to envisage the designer himself in many of the outfits—but that saveur of the louche that usually gives his men's collections their sly resonance was missing. Sure, there was a pink silk jacket here and a blouson in dark-green crocodile there, but that old break-the-bank Val magic was under heavy restraint. Perhaps he's saving it for his 45th anniversary extravaganza in Rome in two weeks.