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The inspiration for fall-winter was said to be the “rippling underbellies of mushrooms,” but like the house’s spring collection it looked more like a coral reef.

The teeming feel to the fibers blown by the movement of walking models painted a scene of anemones and medusas in a sea-palette of ice white, soft blue and crimson. The peplum of one blush pink dress, with a metal pincer belt, recalled the layers of a jellyfish, and the tooth of an octopus. At several points the audience gasped.

“It was exhilarating,” said Hal Rubenstein, InStyle magazine fashion director. “With talent like Sarah’s you just sit back and relish the sense of fantasy. No one else has it.”

Horse hooves _ feathered platforms without heels _ and visors reminiscent of horse blinders added danger to the visual repertoire. A voluminous black trapeze coat in Mongolian hair had the heavy, almost muscular feel of a cantering horse, with a large equine bustle that moved from side to side.

With silhouettes changing shape from every angle and bold ideas, it was by far the best example this season of a designer at the top of her game. It also was a show carried out in the spirit of McQueen, who committed suicide two years ago.

VALENTINO

In a house as classic as Valentino, there is little room for the revolutionary, a point made clear in a sober ready-to-wear.

Designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli described an “imaginative journey” that “explored different iconographies” but the program notes better captured the mood: They cited the show’s “dominating sense of control.”

Structured silhouettes in deep red, black and midnight blue had tight, sophisticated smocking and the painstaking embroidery seen in January’s highly artisanal couture.

High and scooped collars on long coats and knee-length dresses were expressed in thick black leather. Frog fastenings closing straight, slim coats, tone-on-tone trim running along precisely cut bodices and tapered menswear trousers emphasized the constructed look.

It was finely executed, but at times had flashes of the stern headmistress, albeit at an extremely glamorous school.

To be sure, there were traces of the designers’ worldly travels: tunics with fabrics that smacked of a Balkan patterning that playfully moved to white touches of Jackie Kennedy _ who was famously dressed by founder Valentino Garavani.

PACO RABANNE

Paco Rabanne put a spin on the house archives in his fall-winter ready-to-wear collection that included variations on the 1960s Do-It-Yourself Rhodoid dress.

Manish Arora, in his second effort as the creative director, succeeded in capturing an essence of the founder, who first cut his teeth in jewelry design, in a sparkling array of signature waistless cocktail dresses.

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