The thud heard in Milan round 1:45 this afternoon was actually the sound of hundreds of jaws hitting the floor as Roberto Cavalli's sensational show drew to a close. There was a time when the niche he'd carved for himself got so clogged with cliché that he was brinking on self-parody. But his 40th anniversary celebrations seem to have cued a renaissance. The fella's still got the goods. With Lupo, his five-month-old German shepherd, sprawling playfully at his feet, Cavalli was as hail-fellow-and-well-met as ever, but this time, he had dozens of reasons to be cheerful, starting with a gold-sequined opening group, where the models in their short, pleated drop-waisted skirts and diadems looked like nothing less than messengers from the gods. The gold gave way to black, sequins outlining pleats that opened to reveal floral print. That same hidden-secret subtext was pursued through the rest of the collection, so that the pleats of a gorgeous, leopard-printed, floor-sweeping mousseline also flashed flowers.

Cavalli's handwork has always nudged couture in its laborious detail. Here, for example, there was an embossed python jacket that embodied the hide-friendly artisanship of Cavalli's hometown. But if heritage can sometimes be overpowering with this designer, today's collection impressed with its lightness, sensuality, and overwhelming confidence in the fact that—double dip be damned—the gold standard will never fail.