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Photographed by Gabriel Karanfil

The moments before a fashion show begin can sometimes be entertaining. That was certainly true of the Valentino show, when a demoiselle chose to sneak a long-haired dog beneath the folds of her jacket. Her red-coated escort looked sheepish, as if he might have walking duties if things did not go well. Then, front row and center, an exchange of ideas seemed to be going on as the entire set of power American editors sat happily chatting. On this occasion, André Leon Tally was the one wearing dark sunglasses. And he probably needed them to shield himself from the feeding frenzy of paparazzi down the row circling around a thin, young lady like hungry sharks. Her name meant nothing to me, but she was by all accounts an up and coming Italian actress.

Inevitably the lights come up and show begins, and whatever glimpses of the jet set you may observe instantly recedes into memory.

Valentino's show was remarkable for the fluidity of nearly every piece, be it in blossoming pant suits, in the cascading tiers of ruffles that made up a chiffon skirt, in the luscious prints that swirled onto an extensive series of long dresses, or in the exquisite cut of an evening gown as it fluttered down the runway.

Program notes made reference to clothes from bygone China, but it's safe to assume that modern China, with its booming economy, was the target of the sumptuous prints and dazzling embroidered tops that evoked a modern romanticism and vibrancy that was both sensual and exotic.

The colors - sage, dusty rose, chartreuse and apple-green - caught the eye, but it was a pair of jeans embroidered in a butterfly motif and paired with an arm wrap pulled back over the shoulders to form the insect's effigy that seemed destined for the young woman of today.

"I want to stand apart from all the fake couture that has dominated the runways for the past few seasons," Valentino said.

It is safe to assume that he accomplished that and a lot more. The evening pieces were particularly stellar - a pink skirt frothing in a sea of ruffled hearts, a signature red gown split to the waist and falling to the floor in waves of pleats.


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