With fashion houses in turmoil, designers constantly in rotation and aesthetics switching from season to season, it's a pleasure to see what Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri have done with the Valentino label. On the surface, it feels like they haven't done anything much at all - the femininity, the elegance, the technique are all present and correct. But they have made the label feel fresh and exciting for a new generation and a whole new customer base without alienating their core clientele. No wonder Val himself jumps up to a standing ovation every season.
For Spring/Summer 2012, the Valentino team were in a good place to captalise on the season. Sixties couture and femininity are leaping ahead of the pack as key themes for the new season, and both are leitmotifs of the house of Valentino. A rummage through the archives was all that was needed for the opening looks, in a sheer cotton fabric scrolled with foliate designs like lace. The real stuff was in abundance, worked into short, easy dresses with bloused tops and gathered waists. The best was a fragile tulle and lace-banded blouse and full shorts in shocking-pink, worn with flat sandals that gave a feeling of Talitha Getty, or another of those boho sixties aristo who made a career out of floating around tropical hotspots looking incredible in incredibly expensive clothes. There are still a few of their ilk around, and today they wear Valentino.
The long evening gowns were lovely, but they're Valentino no-brainers, this time in more lace and point d'esprit dotted tulle, high-collared and sometimes with flowers picked out in black against a pastel base. Pretty - we've seen them from Valentino a million times, but one more outing couldn't hurt, especially when they're such a backbone for the label. Daywear has been Piccioli and Chiuri's focus for a few seasons now - but never to this degree. Fluid trousers under simple tunic tops, a beige cotton shirt-dress, stunningly simple with florals picked out in black, and those lace dresses re-interpreted in bubbly organza and leather. I'm not too sure about the practicality of the latter, but top marks for trying something new. It felt like Piccioli and Chiuri really considered their daywear offerings, and they picked the right time versus the glut of occasion wear shown on other catwalks. This time the multitude of options on offer felt like they were dressing the Valentino woman for life, not just for evening.