If anyone asks, “What remains of real haute couture?” the answer is in one name: Ralph Rucci.

The American-based designer showed his first Paris collection in 17 years, and fans old (make that familiar) or newly curious flocked to the Hotel Ritz to see whether the designer was still rooting for high fashion.

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“While I was making it I was very emotional because of the history and the difficulty to get to this point,” the designer admitted. “But then it just came very clearly, like I was taking dictation.”

As his clients clustered around him, he explained, “You can feel a very spiritual moment with the clothes and I wanted to distill them to their essence – with my flavour.” what is the heart of the matter? I would describe it as the complex made apparently simple in a way rarely seen on a fashion runway today.

“RR 331” is the name Rucci has given to his collection, following problems with his backers. Its essence was a regrowth of the lush grandeur that has been his trademark for 40 years.

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The elegance came from introspection: Rich fabrics, extraordinarily cut and shaped so that a drape was suddenly thrown like a shower of water over the shoulder, trickling down to settle as a swathe of fabric at the hemline. shapes and cuts – many of them on silk georgette or cashmere – might typically come in black. But there were also shades, from camel to cinnabar, which gave warmth to the sobriety.

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The focus of the collection was in the words Rucci gave to it: “Dedicated to Elsa Peretti”. That applied not just to the delicate handbags made for the show, but as a more general vision of artistic handwork.

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“Elsa Peretti and I are soul mates and we have known each other for many years,” the designer said. “She is very inspiring and I love her as a woman. She and Pauline de Rothschild are my two consistent mentors, who remind me what is appropriate and what is not. Elsa has more style than anyone – nothing to do with the financial possibilities and everything to do with your inner core.“

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Rucci’s passion for his work opened Paris Couture Week and was a reminder of the high-fashion world before all the inter-season collection from Cruise to Resort muddled the offerings.

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By contrast, Rucci moved softly and seamlessly from day to evening. “I came back to Paris after 17 years because this is where I belong,” he said. “There is not a fashion industry in the US for this.”