The first question that came to mind when the last of the 55 haute couture creations in the Valentino collection left the runway was ‘did any of the house’s petites mains sleep over the last six months’? Perhaps they worked in twelve-hour shifts. For how else could they have completed a collection so rich in both conception and execution in so little time.
This season designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli turned to that most Italian of musical art forms for inspiration- the opera. Using the stories and musical moods created by different operas to link this show’s divergent designs. The opening white semi sheer tulle dress, covered in black embroidered musical notes that recreated the melody of La valse de Violetta Valéry from La Traviata, set the tone and was the most literal interpretation of the chosen theme. But from there the Valentino duo explored a wide range of fabric treatments and proportions to represent their favorite operas.
The music of Madame Butterfly gave birth to a floor length cape covered in colorful three-dimensional butterflies crafted from feathers. Aida was reinterpreted as a dramatic raw silk fringed dress with a naïve print of a roaring lion across the front. Elektra appeared as an artifice free, almost puritanical, slate grey dress. And Romeo et Juliette became a fluid gazar organza caftan embellished down the center with a plastron of embroidered tarnished gold threads.
Each ensemble was unapologetically unique unto itself.
Taken as a whole this collection was jarring at times. Moving from monastic to ornate in the blink of a eye as the models quickly walked by. But as no one woman will be buying this entire collection. That minor issue was something of a moot point.
This show was a sartorial Opus of the highest order. It’s melody will surely linger in the mind long after this spring/summer 2014 couture season fades from memory.