PARIS (AP) -- Delicacy, nature, architecture and timeless, effortless beauty.
Those words describe one of the most sumptuous displays of haute couture seen this spring-summer 2013 season -- courtesy of Valentino.
Designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccoli, and their army of indefatigable Italian seamstresses, surpassed even themselves Wednesday perfecting the delicate Valentino silhouette by subtly softening it and exposing more of the neck.
"It's about the garden, in our vision the garden is where natural and architectural elements live together," Chiuri told The Associated Press after the show.
True, a garden gate was evoked in the first gown, in tulle, with soft swirls of red piping, one of the 48-strong collection's most striking looks.
It appeared simple, but was achieved through the painstaking process of wrapping some 220 meters of silk around fibers of wool.
"We want to describe the beautiful craftsmanship of couture, but we didn't want to feel the effort," said Piccoli, neatly summing up the show.
Other garments conjured up images of the Madonna: one vermilion dress in heavy hibiscus wool even had the arms coming from beneath the cape -- like in Renaissance depictions.
And there were beautiful plays in dimension -- such as a dress in magnolia wool and crepe, hung with a curved square bottom.
It captured the voluminous, yet flat dimension of a painting.
At several points, 80-year-old house founder Valentino Garavani applauded from the front row.
"This year we wanted to surprise," said Piccioli. "Not only everyone else, but ourselves first."
And they did.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP.