Friday, 6 July 2012

Paris Haute Couture | VALENTINO Couture Fall 2012/13

There is beauty in simplicity. That’s one of the lessons this haute couture week has taught us, or rather, reminded us of. Or, alternatively, if you’re too young to have taken nineties minimalism to heart, it sprung out of the blue: the idea that you can also stand out in a crowd by wearing something restrained and undecorated. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli are lending a hand in this reappraisal at VALENTINO. “We also think couture is about pure shape,” said Chiuri, as she and Piccioli were working on the finishing touches for their fall lineup in Paris. You can see what she means by flicking through to the points in the show where the midnight-blue dresses appear. One is in liquid silk with a high neckline, long sleeves, and a slightly blouse-y waist, trailing a long, fluted skirt. Another, with a new arched shoulder-line swooping into a curved V-neck, is in velvet. Impeccable, reserved, dignified and youthful. Four adjectives we’re not used to seeing strung together in this day and age.

Piccioli and Chiuri have been working on modernizing couture and bringing a separateness to their vision at VALENTINO. Piccioli put a finger on it when he said, “We believe real beauty is effortless”, and how refreshing it is to hear that at a time when there is so much effort going on in all the dressing up and posturing outside shows. What they’re hinting at in this collection say, in the plain, chic structure of a short boxy dress with a matching double-layered cape is that it’s cool to take the opposite approach for a change. It’s not that the VALENTINO pair have completely changed tack, though. There is color and romanticism and decoration in the collection aplenty, inspired by their studying of the gem-like color of Gustave Moreau’s Symbolist paintings, William Morris’s Arts and Crafts and Tree of Life motifs, and Giotto’s frescoes.

For the last few seasons, the designers have been exploring the possibilities of all kinds of lace and crystal embroidery with the best of them and they are amongst the very best. The house’s signature dress, a silhouette based on a high-necked, raised-waist, balloon-sleeved shape, was reiterated in this collection, but in a different key. Some of the clothes were a lot darker and more erotic than in former seasons, deploying fan-pleating in sheer opaque zones, or strips of cut-out velvet lace running down the center of a dress, all in shades of black and navy. A black tulle dress with three horizontally-placed black velvet bands was an extraordinary example of the serene compromise between staying within the known VALENTINO ambit, and moving on.

Still, the point of having an haute couture operation, like the Valentino one in Rome, is that the craftspeople in the house can switch mediums and give rise to new ideas at any moment. Thus, in this collection, there were alternatives to what Piccioli calls their “modern Madonna” dresses (he means the Virgin, not Madge). Now there are slinky gold-and-jet-beaded jumpsuits, and a gorgeous lemon-yellow crystal-embroidered brocade three-piece pantsuit, too: choices for women who don’t necessarily want to cast themselves as ingénues. In all, the evolution of VALENTINO as modern proposition with a magical tradition continues, broadening its appeal and relevance with every season.

Selections by ANDREA JANKE Finest Accessories 

Photo Credit/Source: The House of VALENTINO
Photography by Yannis Vlamos/GoRunway

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