the master of couture {valentino}…

valentino exhibition roses

a sweep of red cloth cascades down the centre of the stamp stairs at somerset house & pools gently on the floor below…

it signals your imminent arrival: hang a right at the bottom of the stairwell & slip outside the main doors & you can’t miss it, a pristine white wall with the words ‘valentino master of couture‘ emblazoned across it in large red bespoke typeface: & so it begins…

50 years in the making, this exhibition showcases the legacy of a master of his craft…

for any badge-wearing fashion lover {& equally anybody interested in styling & staging}, this meticulously curated show is a must see as, like it’s subject, it reads like a lesson in refinement & attention to detail…

once inside, white walls, dimmed lighting & sparse furnishings mean there’s very little to detract from the exhibits themselves…

similarly striking are the hushed tones in which onlookers converse: a reverence normally reserved for places of worship…

i’m immediately drawn to the far end of the exhibit space where images are being projected onto an oversized sculpture of a rose, valentino garavani’s emblem, which dominates the back wall…

beneath this, & lining the surrounding walls in orderly single file, sit neat rows of balloon-back salon chairs…

valentino_master of couture

resplendent in white upholstery, the chairs are anchored to the walls at waist height & hold a series of glass display cabinets within which various pieces of ephemera are displayed: photos, invitations & letters all from valentino’s private collection…

but these exhibits don’t hold my attention for long…

instead, i soon join a small crowd surrounding the case wherein valentino’s hand-drawn sketches are housed…

some of these drawings are like works of art in their own right created by a seemingly singular flourish of their maker’s pen, whilst others are a little more obscure: all are stamped “valentino” as if to mark their pedigree…

on the walls overhead a timeline maps out a formidable career & i’m heartened to learn it took nine years for valentino to hone his craft before venturing out alone: respect is due!

a metal & glass staircase leads you upstairs to the exhibition’s real drawcard: a carefully-curated selection of more than 130 haute couture designs spanning five decades…

of course there’s the now iconic oscar dress donned by julia roberts {you know the one}, jaqueline kennedy’s wedding dress for her marriage to aristotle onassis & various other collaborations of tulle, sequins, crepe, organza & georgette as befits the formalities of life as an empress, first lady or movie star…

but a nice twist on proceedings is the fact that it’s us, the audience, who must sashay down a 60 metre catwalk in order to observe the collection…

valentino_master of couture

flanking the runway, colour-coded mannequins displaying the dresses are interspersed among more neat rows of white salon chairs…

calligraphied placecards showcasing the names of valentino’s illustrious clientele add a personalised touch…

perhaps in a nod to the timelessness of the designs, the outfits are not ordered chronologically, but instead they’re clustered in groupings with the colour of the mannequin denoting the era of the piece it’s dressed in {mint indicates a 1950s design, mustard for the 60s & so on}…

whilst i concede a lot of these outfits aren’t to my personal taste {they were made neither for my waistline nor my lifestyle}, it is nonetheless impossible to not recognise genius when surrounded by it…

i did a couple of laps of the catwalk & then headed back down a flight of steps to take in the final displays, my undisputed favourite of which was the atelier…

this exhibit showcases the workings of the generally unsung heroes of couture, le regarre {the girls}: these are the women who painstakingly bring the designer’s vision to life, one deftly-executed hand stitch at a time…

this is where the magic happens…

a large square upholstered plinth fills the centre of this space & inset around its perimeter are a series of glass boxes within which rests a sampler of various stitching techniques unique to valentino’s atelier…

valentino_pagine

a ‘tappeto do ruches’ sits alongside organza disks known as ‘pagine’, so called because of their resemblance to the pages of a book…

in another case, lengths of silk and nylon tulle are fashioned into flouncy rose formations…

terms like ‘incrostazioni’, ‘nervature’, ‘drappeggi’ & ‘budellini’ swim off the patternmaking paper they are printed on & dance around my head in a sing song fashion…

i am mesmerised…

also inset amongst the display cases are a row of tv screens playing video on loop…

here we’re able to watch the nimble fingers of the girls working the folds of material to create the samples we see on display around us: pin, tuck, pin, fold, snip, snip, snip!

they attack their work with a ferocity, precision & efficiency second to none & watching them work is akin to witnessing a magician unveiling the secrets behind his box of tricks, though somehow i can’t help but think sawing someone in half might be somewhat easier than recreating one of these designs…

this, to me, is the true magic of valentino master of couture

images via: anomadicabodecreative reviewdazed digitalcreative review

{today’s post is dedicated in memory of paolo, a former colleague who also happened to be an italian ‘valentino’ of sorts, who lost his hard-fought battle with cancer yesterday}

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

12 thoughts on “the master of couture {valentino}…

  1. Wow. I am green with envy. I think the most amazing thing about it (aside from the no-doubt glorious collection of couture from the man, the myth, the legend himself) is that YOU got to walk down the runway. I absolutely love that, it’s such a little detail that made the whole thing that much more special. Can you imagine working at his atelier? I’d constantly feel dirty and unworthy! Those tiny folds of fabric, the “pagine”, are so beautiful and dainty. The colors are really beautiful, too. I’d love to have that sort of fluttering fabric on a skirt or something. So lucky you got to see this exhibit!

    And as a post-script, I’m so sorry about your friend. Cancer is such a rotten beast. Having lost my own dad to it a few years ago, and now have a close friend going through chemo, I can say it’s a pervasive and unfair bitch of a disease. I’m holding your friend Paolo’s memory in the light. He sounded like a delightful soul. Hope you’re holding up all right, darling. xo

    • thanks erin, it was such a well put together exhibition that it really was a joy to recount… a lot of the designs were like wearable art & i dare say if i worked at that atelier i wouldn’t last long… even my exacting standards are probably woefully lacking!
      as for cancer schmancer… yeah, i lost my dad to it also… it’s shit… no other word for it… and hearing that paolo lost his fight just made me feel so sad… we weren’t close, just work colleagues for a brief moment, but he had a lot of verve & so much to live for… he was only in his thirties with a young son & had just landed a job he was really excited about shortly before he was diagnosed… it’s just so unfair… it’s a beast of a disease and it breaks my heart how prevalent it is… i just wanted to acknowledge his being in some small way…

  2. Now, listen here lovely. When I get to see the exhibition in January I will print out your review here and take it with me.. like this it might be as if we went together!

    I think it’s time we meet, so let’s make it happen in 2013:)

    Cancer sucks and so I say, let’s all prevent as much as possible.

    I want to wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas, a wonderful break and a lot of fun too:) Ciao x

    • definitely up for a meet-up, though it feels like i’ve already met you! ha! check out tim walker too when you go… i’ll be putting my review for that up prob very early in the new year… might take a wee christmas break! hope you & yours have a fabulous festive season lovely, filled with goodness & good times!

    • hi laura… i’m normally the girl who misses them all {usually by a day or a week!}… so glad to have made it & it really is worth getting to see if you can!

  3. Pingback: the list: what to see in 2013. | owl's house.

i'd love to hear your thoughts...