Valentino Crosses Cultural Lines for Spring 2016 Couture

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Valentino's interpretation of Fortuny's work for the season evoked the ancient and the holy, with a pinch of irreverence thrown in for good measure.

Although you may not immediately recall who Mariano Fortuny is, you have likely heard of the ‘Fortuny’ pleat, which has been popping up on fashionable women since its creator first introduced the technique in 1907 on the now-famous ‘Delphos’ gown. Many have imitated the original, but few have the dexterity of hand to make pleats so minute and so fine. For Spring 2016 Couture, Valentino’s designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli name-check Fortuny directly, stating that his work was central to the inspiration behind this collection.

Indeed, the duo share a lot in common with Fortuny, whose designs Marcel Proust once declared to be “faithfully antique but markedly original.” The same could be said of Chiuiri’s and Piccioli’s aesthetic — the two have single-handedly prompted a Renaissance revival in fashion since taking over the the house of Valentino in 2008. Their interpretation of Fortuny’s work for the season evoked the ancient and the holy, with a pinch of irreverence thrown in for good measure.

Valentino Spring 2016 Couture
Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

The models emerged from the darkness onto a petal strewn catwalk, with sinewy gold snakes encircling their heads. There were Roman robes and pale wood nymph shrouds sharing space with pleated smock-front dresses and sheer gowns etched with colorful patches of velvet. Earthen tones and rougher textures help support the ancient quality of the clothes, but the collection didn’t linger too long on that theme.

Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have single-handedly prompted a Renaissance revival in fashion since taking over the the house of Valentino in 2008.

Before we knew it, a distinct Orientalism took over the catwalk as oversized, embroidered kimono robes and dramatic velvet dresses featuring dragon appliqués emerged. One of the most breathtaking looks could have come from a tapestry in an old Paris salon, but on the runway, this plunge-front dusk blue and gold gown popped with three-dimensional texture. It was easy to take this mythical, cultural melee at face value and ascribe religious or ceremonial intentions to the clothes — that’s how faithfully the silhouette hews to the fashions of the Old World. Yet, Valentino’s handiwork is too precious to be stuffy, and the whimsy of blending the Orient with paganism and Spanish artistry is too broad in worldview to be preachy.

 

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