Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
PARIS--One of the most difficult tasks in fashion is how to evolve an established brand--in this case the venerable house of Valentino and its tremendous couture heritage--into something relevant. In the two and a half years since their first couture outing, designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli’s vocabulary at Valentino has been a back and forth debate regarding how much respect must be paid to the house’s history.
At Wednesday morning’s fall couture show at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, the designers were able to strike this delicate balance. The Valentino craftsmanship and many of the house’s codes--laces, sheer chiffon and ruffles--were all present, but reworked in new and subtle ways. This collection of day and evening clothes that demonstrated the designer’s command of the house’s direction.
The show opened with a gold and silver pearl gown, belted at the waist, that required 350 hours of embroidery work. But the dress looked incredibly light. When the model passed by, the bottom moved like waves against her legs.
Sexy, but not overtly so, was the phrase that came to my mind at the end of the show. “Opulence is transformed in a private dimension far from indiscreet eyes. Evocation has replaced urgent definition,” said the program notes. “She seduces with martial subtlety and concedes nothing at first glance.” Witness how the white floor length wool cape buttoned at the neck, worn with a long skirt, revealed the a hint of the models skin against a chiffon blouse.
Lightness permeated the entire collection. The airy feeling a silver metallic and platinum Fabergé short dress (300 hours of embroidery work) or one beaded with 2,300 tiny pieces of smoked crystals, a light grey long Chantilly and tulle long dress with 360 folds and pleated tulle, and a light green hematite and silver crystal dress (400 hours of embroidery), simply portrayed the incredible handiwork of the Roman atelier. You almost don’t notice the level of craftsmanship as the models strode by.
So much of couture is about evening wear, and perhaps this is one of its main weaknesses in attracting a new audience and customer.
Perhaps Ms. Chiuri and Mr. Piccioli noticed how some of their peers are now less prone to so much formality. A white crepe single breasted jacket, a white skirt suit, and an agate crepe skirt suit were the designers’ answers. “Daywear” surely took center stage among the parade of sinewy embroidered dresses.
**Photos by Imaxtree.