Valentinoís Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took opera as their source material this season. The micro minidress with beaded lace collar that opened their Fall collection has been replaced by a more worldly and well-traveled fringed cape embroidered with turquoise, coral, and red in a pattern that was hard to pin down. Grecian? Egyptian? From somewhere else in North Africa? All you need to know is that Maria Callas' Medea, from Pasolini's film version of the classic opera, was on the mood board. Chiuri and Piccioli's muse is no longer a girl with a pearl earring. She's a mythological sorceress.

Innocence, then, has been replaced by something not altogether darker for Spring, but certainly more mysterious. It lent a richness to Chiuri and Piccioli's recognizable silhouettes. As they said beforehand: "It's a fashion opera. A show has to be a show." Even as flat sandals adorned with golden scarabs reasserted the realness of the collection, some of the long black lace gowns embellished with brightly colored details looked not all that unlike costumes or indigenous dress—elevated to the hautest levels, of course. It's exactly this sort of stagecraft that has the world's most photographed young women vying to wear Valentino; they were all there today arrayed in the front row. And they'll rush to get the more ornate pieces here: a dress patched together from silvery squares that looked like armor, a monastic romper (interestingly, not an oxymoron chez Valentino) in organza embroidered with tiny strips of leather.

As at their July Couture show, Chiuri and Piccioli savvily balanced the extraordinary workmanship of their evening gowns with not-quite-humble daywear: crisp blue poplin shirts, cropped khaki pants, a suede dress with a fringe-trimmed cape back, and even a pair of jeans—if you can call them that—in dark denim with deep ruffles that began north of the knees. For the non-jet-setters in the audience, the really remarkable thing about these designers is that a rugby-striped cotton coat can cast as potent a spell as a dramatic gown made from the finest filigreed lace.