This season, the duo at Valentino were talking about the importance of returning to the beginning of time in order to create a new perspective. They also spoke about looking forwards instead of backwards, and how they were leaving Rome for the wild climes of Africa. This was an emotional and spiritual collection for the duo - many of the demi-couture pieces were works of art.
The collection opened with very simple, kimono type sheaths, which very quickly began to be sectioned off and embellished. Feathers were a big component of this collection - they came around the neck on the cuffs, evoking both the magnificence of the vulture and the Victorian macabre of the jungle crow.
As ever, the silhouette was about a long line and high necks, and despite what the pair said, many of the pieces were very influenced by neoclassical Roman design. There were lots of leather studded corsets, like breastplates worn over dresses, with prints of leopards, cheetahs and elephants. Strips of leather took on an armour quality. Evoking Septimius Severus, the first African Roman Emperor who ruled England in 193 - 211 AD, these girls looked ready to guard the walls of Hadrian by his side. The link between Roman armour and North African tribal plates were also melded in places. What didn’t work so well were the cornrows worn by a sea of white models. There were black models here but not many, which made the cornrows an inappropriate kind of cultural extraction.
Prints arrived via a Sonia Delaunay section, which saw modernist squares and rectangles in shades of tobacco, coral and cornflower blue, like a tribal patchwork blanket. Picasso is the ultimate European master inspired by Africa; the modernist lines could be drawn through the history of art here within this collection. Ghost bleach prints, which scribbled outlines of giraffes on silk black dresses, also evoked a handrawn love affair.
Plissé pleats, which we’ve seen a lot of this season, as well as fringing and ruffles were prevalent. An earthy tie-dye section not only rendered chiffon baby-doll pieces but cool parkas and hoodies. Like at Chanel this season, this lent a much younger, sportier vibe to the usually more formal proceedings.