Valentino Spring 2012
As four weeks of shows draw to a close, it’s apparent that the value of the sincere and personally felt vision is almost the paramount thing in fashion. To make a lasting impression, any house or individual designer needs the ability to open a window on a world of their own—and then make us believe we can be part of it. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli have reached that state of grace at Valentino—a house which has always “owned” such nebulous qualities as prettiness, fragility, and romance. At one point, it seemed as if those notions could have slipped into history with the retirement of Valentino himself. But now his successors are achieving an effortless balance between maintaining the fantasy, and making it beautifully accessible to a modern girl. Their spring show was a long essay on Valentino’s supremacy in the art of finessing everything that can be done with lace – but brought wholly into a contemporary context.
Chiuri and Piccioli said they’d been looking at Mexican folk embroidery and the photographs of Graciela Iturbide and Edward Weston—not that you really need to know this. The knack they have is for using intricate and delicate fabric and making it simple to wear. Their first looks, which they said were derived from “dowry lace,” were made in a cotton canvas—reminiscent of the linens you still see used in Italian homes. From there, they worked on lace appliquéd onto organza in flounces, fine Chantilly net, lace worked into micro-flowers, denser, and crunchier guipure right through to silvery, slightly Deco metallic lace for the finale.
It could easily have been a case of overkill—or just an exhausting exhibition of couture-grade fabric wares. But for all the labor that goes into the materials, the clever part is the way the designers reined it back from being cloyingly ingénue or sugary.
Part of that is due to their modest but flattering shapes, usually neatly fitted into a slightly raised waist, with high necklines and some kind of quiet emphasis on the sleeves, which bloom into gentle puffs or soft balloons caught into the cuff. And part of it is their modern and realistic understanding of how a girl wants to feel and move when she goes out. Most of their girls walked in flat thong sandals with tiny, glittery block heels, looking as if they’d just shrugged on their dresses and run out, feeling easy and comfortable with themselves. And who wouldn’t want to be one of them?