The team behind Valentino–Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri–inspired a whole lot of questions by explaining their Spring 2011 couture collection with a statement like “Elegance is subversive… The real subversion is culture.” Although I’m not entirely convinced that means anything, it rang oddly true when viewing the clothes: a strange and compelling mix of classic femininity (butterflies, flowers, neutrals in romantic pinks and pales) and something more off-putting (cut-outs, sheer panels, those same butterflies as weirdly constricting chokers). The collection–with its admirably coherent narrative–actually did an excellent job of realizing this play on virginal prettiness and something legitimately subversive… while keeping things subtle and wearable all the time. I’m officially excited to see where they’re going with Valentino. Check out the whole show at