Valentino: After last season's debut couture collection that looked straight out of the archives, for fall Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli waved arrivederci to the familiar, taking the collection in an artsier, considerably younger direction—one, by the way, that made no provisions for life before nightfall. In place of the designer Valentino's carefully balanced, color-rich equation—day + cocktail + evening = a lineup the ladies will love—Chiuri and Piccioli installed a mostly all-black array of wispy and wispier, moody and moodier, while featuring myriad sheers. "A story of shadows," Piccioli called it, intended to reveal "the essence of couture, its construction." The show started well, A-line minidresses made fragile in collages of Chantilly lace, point d'esprit and tulle that provided peek-a-viewing to the corsetry beneath. Throughout, the designers flaunted the fine work of the Valentino ateliers, at times doing so judiciously—a spill of beads on a pretty ballerina dress; a come-hither thicket of ruffles on a skirt. But soon... more

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Jean Paul Gaultier: The designer chose to low-key his greatest hits reprisal, sending out familiar motifs under the guise of a mini filmography. A short, racy pin-striped suit with matching thigh-high boots took the handle "La Blonde ou la Rousse" (or "Pal Joey"); a snappy sequined sailor T-shirt over slit bell-bottoms, "Querelle de Brest"; a short metallic sequin tunic under a leather vest, "A Star Is Born." And so on through Gaultier's own lexicon—trench, smoking, pj's, glamour gown, lavish fur, molded corset, now swinging two ways, Mae West and Barbarella. Make no mistake, this show featured some very appealing, client-friendly clothes. But given Gaultier's talents and subject matter, its only surprise was it didn't develop into a blockbuster... more

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Givenchy: Riccardo Tisci has taken Givenchy far from Paris and set up camp in North Africa. To the rat-a-tat-tat of Moroccan cymbals, the designer staged a transporting, open-air couture show, with fluttering chiffon hoods and swishing sarouel pants evoking the traditional costumes of Berber women—albeit with a streetwise edge. The show opened on a strong note, with black velvet carved into coats and jackets with demonstrative shoulders and cinched waists. Tisci has mapped out tough glamour as his fashion turf, and his models—with chunky gold rings on every finger and tiaras of spikes worthy of the Statue of Liberty—looked ready to defend it... more