By: Rebecca Lowthorpe Follow @Rebecca_ELLE
There were tigers racing across skirt suits, leopards and gorillas roaring on the backs of coats and a swarm of butterflies that had settled on a cape. A comment on natural history? Zoology? Adam and Eve? The ‘set’ included a painted backdrop of a fantasy forest by the Rome Opera House.
The perfect dream world at Valentino
Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli are masters at delivering the ultimate in poetic, swoon-worthy couture: one sweeping, ancestral gown of golden tulle was embellished with dragons that took 1,800 hours to embroider. Valentino is the gold standard when it comes to exceptional, traditional craftsmanship and, yes, it is breathtaking to behold.
The problem this season, however, is the mood of the other mighty couture houses – Chanel and Dior – where the clothes were as light as air and pulsed with a modern beat that made them feel relevant to today’s world. Well, what could be more significant than a pair of Chanel or Dior couture trainers?
Had the Valentino designers done their version of all this youth-obsessed energy, it would have made for a brilliantly unexpected show. As it was, the raw-hemmed tutus - whipped up out of the frothiest tulle - conjured classical prima ballerinas not modern women. Simple fluid sheaths from throat to ankle were utterly divine, but it was hard to imagine anyone other than a vestal virgin wearing one. Valentino’s woman felt too remote, too perfect, untouchable. She needed the Valentino equivalent of the couture trainer.
Earlier in the day, the fashion crowd gathered on long white benches in a former hot air balloon factory to witness Maison Martin Margiela’s latest ‘Artisanal’ show – the collection that takes vintage pieces and recasts them.
Three looks from Maison Martin Margiela
The Maison – it always speaks as one collective voice – said that it had dived into the world of collectors where it had appropriated textiles designed by artists.
Mariano Fortuny fabric had been stitched to simple white t-shirt dresses. Graphically patterned fabric designed by Frank Lloyd Wright or Verner Panton had been reworked into a cluster of bustier dresses.
But, this being Maison MM, there were further twists: a peacoat was made from aluminium balloons, a rescue blanket had been recast as a sleeveless suit jacket and an opera coat had been cut from a Bauhaus tapestry and given golden metal sleeves. Embroideries that resembled bric-a-brac – small, found objects such as ring-can pulls, keys, chains, crystals – were in keeping with Martin Margiela’s philosophy of giving old and humble objects a new lease of life.
The same could be said of the Maison’s atelier which has reinvigorated itself over the last few years with a stronger sense of self. Put simply, Maison Martin Margiela has never looked as strong since its founder’s departure.