Maison Valentino and the Eternal city of Rome. Rome is the core of the Valentino brand. Its where Valentino Garavani founded his Maison Valentino atelier in 1960, and remains the global headquarters of the brand. Therefore, it’s fitting that the Valentino’s Fall 2015 Haute Couture show took place in its home- Rome.
Seven years ago, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took the reins at Valentino, and in that time they’ve rarely designed a collection that hasn’t showcased their own Italian heritage in one way or form. By making the city of Rome the base of this season’s offering, the duo literally brought the collection home in grand style.
The city is the literal inspiration of the collection. “Rome is the place where we bring a lot of inspiration,” Ms. Chiuri said before the show, “You can open a door or you can go inside in a corner and find something you’ve never made in your life… you feel the history, the cinema, the church.”
The Italian Renaissance was clearly the show’s biggest theme, but rather than focusing on one of the past enlightened periods (the late Imperial, the Byzantine, the Medieval era, the 1400s, the 1600s), the designers concentrated on a different type of Renaissance- a modern one. “It’s kind of a new Renaissance,” Pierpaolo Piccioli noted, speaking of Italy today, but in truth he could have been commenting on the state of Maison Valentino itself.
Under their tenure, they have thrust Maison Valentino into a renaissance of its own, reinventing its classic aesthetic to make it one of the hottest, most watched and most lusted after brands in the fashion . Their unapologetically patriotic aesthetic is truly unique, combining intricate, old-world beauty with wide-ranging contrasting elements to create quirky, whimsical, and utterly beautiful garments that highlight the very best examples of Italian craftsmanship and luxury.
With this Couture show, the designers aimed to bring new depth to their oeuvre… and their hard work paid off. It was exquisite!
The show took place at sunset within the ocher walls of the Piazza Mignanelli, a previous show location of Maison Valentino. It was as perfect a setting as you could get, with the history and the life of the city (locals living in the apartments overlooking the square were hanging out of their windows to take it all in) pouring over the crowd as the show took place. As for the clothes; they were absolutely the location’s equal.
I said above that the designers strove to make this collection about modern Rome, but based firmly in its history. The clothing also reflected this with ancient silhouettes being adapted and rendered in a modern way. I have to give praise for their execution as it’s near impossible to render such an ancient city in a completely contemporary way, but they pulled it off beautifully. This location/ clothing approach allowed the designers to convey the idea of a timeless, ageless woman knows her roots and is confident in her style.
There were flowing shifts and sheaths that resembled togas, sweeping capes, embellished jackets, corseted gowns and looks patterned in stripes, graphic bands and patchwork that echoed the leather fringe of Roman armour. The runway styling matched perfectly- every look was worn with gladiator sandals, sculpted metal head pieces, while heavy golden jewellery (à la Alessandro Gaggio) wrought in the shape of wolves, griffins, bees, eagles and other traditionally “Romanesque” animals completed each ensemble.
The animal imagery played out on the clothing itself; eagles, gryphons and lions appeared almost as bas-relief patterns over silk net, an enormous beaded gryphon appeared on a sweeping cloak, wings and singular feathers appeared in embroidery patterns- there were even embellished jackets and capes covered in actual fluttering plumes (a gilded mid-length coat is particularly stunning!) These touches instilled the collection with a dreamy, almost mythical aura.
This mythical look was further enhanced with the inclusion of ancient Roman symbols- stylized patterns of wheat, flowers, vines and olives, intricate stars and geometric graphic prints that resembled ancient armour abounded.
The craft on view was masterful: some looks displayed intricate workings of tulle, point d’esprit and lace, others were intricately adorned with glimmering beads and appliqués- more still were graphically patterned in metallic brocade weaves and lush embroidery. There was a sheer tulle cape inset with leather flowers, and a black silk sheaf covered in a trellis of crocheted vines, leaves and olives… the list goes on, and it was gorgeous!
Black was a dominant colour, a nod to Italy’s acclaimed film noir genre and maybe to the the more sinister parts of Rome’s past. Colour was introduced by way of a vibrant red (it is Valentino after all), deep green and blue and glimmering metallic gold, but these looks were few and far between. The moody elements shone especially when juxtaposed with the collection’s overly romantic fare, diffusing the sweetness and keping the tone of the show firmly engaging and cohesive. The black undoubtedly added supplementary strength to the idea of the pure, absolute elegance that the designers wished to convey.
The show’s guests very rightly gave it a vibrant standing ovation. This is one of the best Valentino Haute Couture collections in recent years- perhaps even the finest work that Ms. Chiuri and Mr. Piccioli have done to date. It certainly was my favourite show of the entire Fall 2015 couture schedule. There were no gimmicks or excess fluff to be seen on the runway- just straightforward, timelessly elegant and exquisitely gorgeous fashion.
And judging from the response that’s exactly what the Valentino customer wants. It was fantastic!