Valentino Garavani stood in a pale suit, his nut-brown hair immaculate, his deep tan glowing, one of his wrists flashing with diamond friendship bracelets.
‘I don’t feel the weight of it,’ he said when asked how it felt to be surrounded by 50 years of his work, ‘I feel proud to be showing these designs in London. Each one has a beautiful story.’
For anybody interested in high voltage glamour, the craftsmanship of couture or what some of the world’s most beautiful women have worn on the red carpet in the last five decades, Valentino: Master of Couture which opens to the public today at Somerset House, is the exhibition for you.
Picture a glamorous couture catwalk – all 60 metres of it – where you are the model walking on the runway and the ‘audience’ is seated on little gilt chairs dressed in Valentino couture. Some chairs have been left empty with beautifully hand written name tags – Diana Vreeland, Anne Hathaway - wittily capturing Valentino’s clients, past and present.
Of the 130 hand-crafted designs, his greatest hits include Julia Roberts’ monochrome gown she wore when she won the Oscar in 2001, Jackie Onassis’s wedding dress (a modern-looking cream lace mini) from the couturier’s 1968 White collection, and the breathtaking wedding dress he designed for Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece in 1995.
Not only does everything look immaculately preserved, it all looks so vibrant and modern. As the show’s curator Patrick Kinmonth put it of the finale piece in the exhibition, a jacket made entirely from pale pink silk organza circles, housed in a glass box alongside a film of the Valentino atelier’s ‘petits mains’: ‘Without the skill of the Master, a jacket like this is inconceivable.’
Valentino: Master of Couture, Embankment Galleries, Somerset House.
Dates: 29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013. Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm daily. Late night openings Thursdays until 9pm.
Admission: £12.50, Concessions £9.