Paris Fashion Week: Elegance and virtue at Valentino
They called it ‘Magical realism’. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, the designers at Valentino had been looking at the paintings by Flemish masters where they said they had found ‘undeniable connections with our contemporary world: a glorification of everyday life.’
You could practically see these paintings come to life in this collection with its spare Calvanist simplicity followed by the jaw-dropping richness of fabrics, always framed in a stark silhouette. The young models, with their black satin Alice bands and hair swept into a long side plait, apparently make-up free, resembled virgins, as painted by the masters.
They looked untouchable. Regal princesses trapped by their delicate embroideries and the intensely immaculate luxury of the clothes. Despite their considerable beauty, it was sometimes hard to picture these creations in real life, other than a special event. Of course, those wearing Valentino to events – as so many do – will be very lucky to do so. But where do these clothes go, when they’re not making a speech, hosting an event or posing for pictures? Clearly these are not your everyday clothes. Unless your everyday includes a white fur cape.
In a Valentino world, the first passage of plain black coats and dresses, that revealed bare legs and were stripped of any detail save their embroidered white collars, might do the day job. Or any one of those coats, with the caped sleeves or the very long monk-like ones that came with hoods.
The pair had developed a neckline that was square and cropped like a portrait, adding to the sense of religious virtuousness. It was there on the long red gown that resembled a cardinal’s robes, the museum-worthy tapestry pieces, and in the striking blue and white section, its embroideries and prints inspired by Delft ceramics.
Perhaps because the studio of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli at the house of Valentino in Rome, is located directly above their vast and thriving couture atelier – one of the busiest in the world - their working lives are permanently immersed in the absolute finest. And, understandably, this may be all that their customers want. But given that they have the opportunity to indulge in their couture collections twice a year – and they are absolutely brilliant – it’s hard not to wish (yearn?) for their ready-to-wear to be just that. Ready-for-real-life.