Haute Couture

Valentino's Garden of Earthly Delights

Jacques Brinon/AP

The elegant salons of the neo-classical Hotel Salomon de Rothschild in Paris’s eighth arrondisement are decorated with displays of curiosities--rare butterflies, fine corals, and stuffed animal heads.

Some of the room's ornate style seemed to have been translated into Valentino's 2013 Fall Couture collection from designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, which debuted there on Wednesday night.

“Theirs is a wonderful room full of curiosities and natural and artificial virtuosities that accumulate and meld following paths of knowledge and surprise,” the designers said in the show notes.

The collection from the Roman house emphasized all things rich and ornate. They contrasted earthy creations made from menswear fabrics with occasional sexy, lingerie-inspired pieces.

The first dress shown in rich, dark gold vermeil guipure lace was named “Le Cabinet de Curiosities,” in which images of curious-looking creatures were displayed beneath the beautiful lace surface. One of the most elaborate creations to follow was the “Le Théâtre des Nereides,” a dress in bronze guipure, black corals, and garnet embroideries, fit for a Cleopatra. Similarly, the “Les Heures Persanes” was an ornate dress in striking pinks and greens from a rosewood embroidered tapestry with emerald and crystal.

In one overt historical reference, a tunic-style dress was encrusted with satin cuir and printed with an original Jacopo Ligozzi XVII century document from the Italian artist. The traditional chunky wools and checks, however, lent a British feel. One outfit was named Lady Montagu Douglass Scott after the former Duchess of Gloucester.

In contrast with these more opulent designs, menswear-inspired fabrics were used widely and given a new twist. Consider a coat made of herringbone hemp, encrusted with cashmere and decorated with allegorical drawings of lions's heads -- or a black jacket encrusted with cashmere parchment print.

Meanwhile, standing out from the collection was one lingerie-style black dress made of Chantilly and Valenciennes lace. Named “La Rêve Transforme,” it gave the Valentino woman yet another secret dimension.

As the designers described it, the collection was all about balance. “While it celebrates fantasy," their notes said, "The collection also embraces an earthly dimension."