It's made for a confounding week (make that three days), with Christian Lacroix's on-a-shoestring high fashion collection, possibly his last, greeted with a standing ovation and one of the hands-down favorites of the week. Two French journalists even unfurled a giant banner proclaiming "Christian Lacroix Forever" at the end of his show.
Fashion has such a giddy air of wealth and excess around it that it's difficult to fathom when seemingly high-riding designer companies falter.
I'll never forget the disbelief in the WWD newsroom in New York back in 1998 when the paper got word that Chanel Inc. was dissolving its partnership with Isaac Mizrahi and shuttering the business.
It was dÃ©jÃ vu when I walked into Christian Lacroix's headquarters on the Rue de Monceau in Paris on Wednesday to learn the company had filed a petition seeking court protection from its creditors. It's always disheartening to see a wildly creative designer -- at Lacroix, even the wires coming out of the receptionist's computer are festively decorated with wooden beads and glittering rings -- run up against a wall.
When George Clooney arrived at a Versace women's wear show a few years back, there was a roar from the blasÃ© fashion pack, and women and men surged in with the photographers to get a closer look.
Last week, when David Beckham strolled into the Emporio Armani show at the outset of Milan men's fashion week, the reception was incredibly subdued: a flashbulb here, a gasp there.
"We're civilized," a veteran men's editor said by way of explanation.
The first fashion week of 2009 was bound to be low-key, given the economic downturn.
"I feel like I'm at Wideville," Marisa Berenson remarked, likening the grandeur of the museum's rich furnishings to the designer's chateau outside of Paris.
It will be interesting to see if Valentino's new brand stewards -- the private equity fund Permira and the designer Alessandra Facchinetti -- will be able to sustain the aura of exclusivity, privilege and refinement around the brand without the founding designer, who built it over a career stretching 49 years and with a loyal entourage of Hollywood A-listers, European royals and assorted jet-setters.
Not that the man seems worried, or wistful about leaving fashion behind. During our interview, he seemed relaxed, happy and enjoying his free time, looking forward to a summer vacation that would not be interrupted by the ceaseless cycle of collections. He told me his first idea was Spain, but then he ran into a Turkish friend in London and is now mulling the possibility of sailing his yacht in its blue waters. He's got a long list of other places he's keen to visit, including Fiji and Australia. There is definitely a life after fashion, and Valentino's sounds as glamorous as ever. His fashion foundation, and ambition to do ballet costumes, might have to wait.