Paris Haute Couture: Valentino autumn/winter 2012

It’s not too fanciful to suggest that couture’s new delicate touch began with Valentino’s regime change four years ago. Yes, before Armani eased up for his Privé collection this season, before even the sainted Raf Simons introduced restraint and reality to Dior with his first show since he was appointed as John Galliano’s successor (to the most rapturous reviews since Jesus walked on water), Maria Grazia Chiurli and Pier Paolo Piccioli were rustling up big statements out of thin air – or at least out of whisper-weight clouds of chiffon and lace that seemed filled with air.

Talk about a light hand on the tiller. Ever since they were put in charge at Valentino in 2008, the duo has produced a master class in understated craftsmanship each season. And it just gets more assured with every collection. It’s all the more remarkable for being the product of two minds with distinct creative outlooks. Staying true to the essence of these old brands while moving them forward isn’t easy.