Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli cited Magical Realism in their press notes for a collection that effortlessly blended the two – reality as this was a ready-to-wear collection we were seeing, and magic - so extraordinary the level of craftsmanship and obsessive the attention to detail on show that instantly transported you to a couture salon. They also looked at the hauntingly pared back portraits by the Flemish masters, including Vermeer and his Girl With a Pearl Earring, and even though no one can really accuse a Valentino gown of wearing its wearer in this collection the focus was resolutely on the girl’s face, framing it with white laser-cut embellished collars and portrait necklines.
Of course the gowns and dresses were stunning – we’ve come to expect nothing less from those two – but this collection signalled an evolution for the brand. There was new here and that had mainly to do with the shorter lengths and more austere silhouettes like the opening look of a short black dress with just a fold around the skirt’s hemline and those white cut-out cuffs and collar. With their black headbands, side-plaited hair and patent Mary Janes (this time with added shimmering velvet ‘socks’) these were good girls on their way to Sunday service. The lapis blue of another such dress was straight out of a Madonna and Child masterpiece.
This newfound mood for the designers did not stop them from letting loose on the embellishment front though. On the contrary, the strict lines made for excellent canvases on which to add – embroidered flowers, as much lace as your little hearts can handle and a porcelain print inspired by Delft. But again, it was the simpler looks that felt exciting like a short ivory alpaca coat over matching knee-length shorts paired with a white shirt and a strand of pearls around the collar or an ivory cape with a Little Red Riding hood and tailored trousers. And as dreamlike the more embellished gowns were it all came down to a simpler blue grey knee-length dress, its hemline rounded like a vase, its contrasting white neckline sharp, those pearls again its only decoration. Or the one that followed in black, a strip of bare skin cutting across the neckline. And while there was brilliant scarlet red here pure black was as skilfully used, to cut short skirt suits, every available edge scalloped followed by great colour combinations of pistachio and red, blue and powder rose. A modern fairy tale of a collection.