Luxury is what haute couture is all about. After all, could there be anything more luxurious than having a cadre of experts at your beck and call, pinning, stitching and fitting with the sole goal of making you look beautiful? That sweeping statement was in reference to the workers of the couture ateliers, but it could widen to include Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli too. After all, they're the talents holding the reins at the house of Valentino, and there's nothing more Valentino than making women look beautiful.
Luxury is also a leitmotif of the house - that's there's a reason Val's Gals flocked to his door and made his couture operation one of the most successful in Paris. Today, however, Valentino flocked to their door, showing the latest Autumn/Winter couture collection in the gilded salons of the L'Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild. Okay so Val Gal Marie-Hélène herself never lived here, but that location was a neat tie-in. The idea of showing these garments behind closed doors also ties with the design duo's concept for this season - the private luxury of haute couture. That's something often-vaunted by couturiers, the maxim that the inside of a garment, although experienced only by the wearer, must be as perfect as the outside.
Valentino's take on quiet luxury, however, isn't minimal. Tone-on-tone embroideries of microscopic golden beads, say, or soutache braid embroideries across black velvet in day dresses or knee-length coats. Herringbones and chevrons were simple decorative motifs, seamed into the garments rather than simply applied. A standout wrapped diagonal lines of lace around the body and knotted them up into bows along the spine, the body covered from head to toe but slithers of skin revealed through transparent fabrics. That was a leitmotif - seen but not seen, slashes cut through the fabric of cashmere capes, degrade effects achieved through beading on sheer fabrics. It was stunning in the evening gowns, but outstanding in the day-wear so often eschewed in couture. Their lingerie-light chiffon skirt and sweater latticed with a cage of silver caviar beading, looked desirable, dreamlike, and yet modern.
Modernity. That's the beat Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli capture, that so many houses in Paris fail to pin down. Couture is always a fantasy, but truly seductive haute couture is the stuff you can yearn to wear yourself - coveting is no sin at Valentino. The realism to their work is what marks it out, along with the effortless and seamless manner in which they have managed to knock the stuffing out of Valentino's often grandiose fashion statements and make them feel entirely relevant. There have been a few stumbles along the way, granted, but the new Valentino team are undoubtedly on a winning streak.