Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli kept up the dark streak from their Fall ready-to-wear line when they created their evening-focused Fall 2012 Couture collection. The show was partly inspired by the painter Gustave Moreau, who, according to the house, was "a lover of dark colors but never painted with black." The resulting assortment traveled to visual extremes: at times it relied on heavy brocades, painted floral patterns, and intricate beadwork for a sense of richness and luxury, and at others the simplicity of long-sleeved dresses in dark, solid colors made for stark contrast. But even the dresses in basic black carried more than meets the eye — the first dress that came down the runway, a sheer, pleated number in black chiffon and crepe de chine, took 500 hours to create. Offering both forms of high-concept design seems an effective strategy: Valentino CEO Stefano Sassi said couture orders are now back to the volume they enjoyed in 2008, when Valentino Garavani was still designing.