Valentino haute couture this season went on a diet, losing metres off the silhouettes (not kilos off the figure). After being the architect behind a giant wave of voluminous shows and collections in Europe for the past several seasons, Valentinoʼs couturier Pierpaolo Piccioli radically slimmed down his cut and line, and the result was far more succinct and sombre clothes.
That said, often the most amazing looks were not exactly lean. Whether faille cigarette pants topped by a substantial burst of white shantung petals. Or a beautiful halter neck faille gown that bubbled out outrageously below the hip.
Few couture ateliers can compete with this Roman house in terms of technique, which referenced the glory days of the house back at its beginnings in the 1950s. Several models sported hairdos worthy of Marella Agnelli.
Piccioliʼs use of colour was faultless, drawing an audible “ohhhh”, with the combination of imperial Roman purple silk pants, Valentino sinful red fabric belt and white blouse whose seams flared into a great fan shape.
The mood was romantic and poignant, added to by the soundtrack – a selection of mournful tunes from Antony & The Johnsons.
Piccioli again staged couture inside the Hotel Salomon de Rothschild hiring a stellar cast – from veterans to models-of-the-moment for this show. Stella Tennant opened the action in a black faille dropped waist tent dress topped by an organza blouse, while Mariacarla Boscono looked stunning in a densely packed micro-sequinned floor-tracing Yves Klein blue sleeveless dress.
Kaia Gerber did appear a little overwhelmed in a giant rose faille coat that finished in a huge train. But the most acclaimed face of the couture catwalks, the Sudanese Australian Adut Akech, won the honour of the last and most memorable look. A pink silk column topped by a bustier of matching marabou cut into the shape of a large fan.
The collection obviously resonated with the house’s founder, Valentino Garavani, who wrote on his Instagram account: “The best collection you have ever done dear PP! So proud and honoured to see the same inspiration I had always making beauty! Great workmanship, thanks to our amazing ateliers, you Antoinetta and all the others… incredible details and perfection everywhere”.
However, the show comes at a somewhat awkward time for the house. Many retailers have been murmuring about flatter sales, and the house is also expected to change management in the near future.
According to industry sources, Jacopo Venturini, formerly an executive VP at Gucci, will replace Valentinoʼs longstanding CEO Stefano Sassi this spring. Venturini simply needs a few more months to finish his non-compete clause with his previous employer.
Even Piccioli felt a tad strained, as he turned away from the camera pit. He made the mock grimace of a man who has been under deadline pressure.
That said, the memory that will remain of this show was of a consummately staged event, where one was in the presence of true haute couture – with its bravura craft, rarefied atmosphere and a palpable sense of duty to create and nurture beauty and high fashion.
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