Valentino Couture Fall Winter 2013 Paris
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The house of Valentino has been showing its ready to wear, menswear and haute couture collections at the regal Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild for a few years now. Usually the brand leaves the location’s already majestic décor alone as it seamlessly fits with its elegant aesthetic. This time however, designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli needed a more dramatic backdrop to frame their fall/winter 2013 couture collection.

In the foyer, the guest were greeted by a looming six foot tall stuffed giraffe. The archway in the hall was outlined with mounted antlers and the walls of each salon were filled with a cabinet of curiosities of collected treasures from giant turtle shells and corals to mounted butterflies and ostrich eggs. Then it was time for the designers to show their sartorial take on what their own collection of favorite things would look like.

From the get go the duo did not hold back. They even called their first ensemble, crafted out of blacked gold guipure lace and panel inserts of silver silk covered in an eclectic assortment of flora and fauna images, “Le cabinet de curiosité”. Then it became a study in how to take the idea of traditional masculine fabrics such as herringbone wool, a salt and pepper tweed and a brown cashmere tartan and give them some feminine features. They intriguingly did this via a collage “cut out” effect of engraving the fabric with allegorical imagery. A technique that helped these pieces stave off looking too stayed.

It was the amazing embellishments on display in this collection that lifted up a number of outfits into the realm of museum quality workmanship. A spaghetti strap dress crafted in a crystal encrusted tapestry motif, that took 1200 hours to create, or one that recreated a Jacopo Ligozzi XVII print in a mosaic of thousands of glass pearls; both pieces belong in a glass display cabinet, safe in a controlled environment so that years from now future generations can come and marvel at the workmanship.

But for every richly ornate exit, the designers tried to balance it with one free from any adornment other than the precisely done tailoring. That austere purity worked better in the lighter fabric of last season’s estival designs. Here, among all of the finery on display, they seemed like dusty relics that had been left on the cabinet shelves for too long.

- Jessica Michault

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