If one thing can be said about the Valentino woman, it's that she's a traveller. Jet set is the parlance used in the past to describe the fact she would summer in Mustique, winter in Gstaad with stops in between in New York, London, Milan and of course Paris, to see her darling Valentino. Today, it's just a fact of the times for clients of true luxury, hence the reason Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli find occasion to dust off that jet set idea and unleash an ode to the eternally unweary traveller in their latest Valentino collection.
If that gives an impression that Chiuri and Piccioli were treading water with this Autumn/Winter Valentino show, it would be dead wrong. On the contrary, this felt like something we hadn't seen from them before - although, at the same time, it fitted perfectly into the six or seven-season sequence of home-run collections for the house. There was a time when it would've shocked us for a Valentino show to open with a tie-neck blouse in white crepe de chine alongside buttery calfskin culottes and cape. Today it made perfect sense.
Travelling as a concept brought out ethnic and folk costume, Slavic embroideries and swirling Russian braid, for example, Scottish Aran knits, braid frogging that could be from Mongolian coats and touched of smocking, best used here as abstract details on the shoulder. Abstraction - that was the interesting idea, the Valentino woman as a magpie alighting on diverse cultural influences and absorbing them into her dress. Make that evening dress - Russian tapestries looked best when encrusted with transparent sequins, the knits came scattered with crystal and what looked like a Chinese scene was created in embroidery across tulle, laid over lace.
This collection was about pulling Valentino ready-to-wear closer than ever before to the exquisite qualities of Chiuri and Piccioli's haute couture creations - they technique was astounding, as was the weightlessness of the final result. As all that suggests, it was a lightness of hand that was key here - nothing hung heavy with effort, and certainly nothing looked like costume (God forbid folk costume). 'Our goal is to provide women with a chance to dream,' they said, 'be it ready to wear or couture'. Goal achieved, once again.