Valentino Is ‘En Pointe’ with Its Ballet-Inspired FW16 Collection

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The three-minute applause after the Valentino show should give you an indication of how much the audience loved the collection.

There was a three-minute applause today after the Valentino show, which should give you an indication of how much the audience loved the collection (and this in a social media-driven world where the use of phones has reduced most applauses to a forced ten seconds).

By now, these long and loud applauses have become more and more regular in the halls where Valentino shows — testament to the design prowess of creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, who amazed their guests yet again today with a collection that was more akin to couture than ready-to-wear.

The execution was perfect from start to finish, especially as the outfits were toughened up in the first few looks with military coats and combat boots.

The ballerina-inspired collection reduced some audience members to tears and was only amplified by the incredible music being played by the live pianist, who built up the show to an intense and emotional crescendo. In the show notes, Chiuri and Piccioli mentioned they wished to “offer a reply to chaos and to the uncertainty of present times, stepping away from virtuality in order to discover the essence of the contemporary in the unrepeatable physicality of an emotion: in experiences that need to be truly lived, in person, and that no digital instrument can fully reinstate.” That they chose a live pianist to drive home this notion was one thing — that the show occurred in the wake of so much change in the industry is a complete other. Curiously, Saint Laurent, on the eve of this show, and Chanel, on the morning of, both harkened back to bygone eras with old salon-like presentations. It seems as though designers have much to say about the rapid changes occurring in the industry, but none more resistant than those in Paris, who have displayed 100 percent nostalgia and zero percent embracing of new show schedules or the see-now-buy-now retail models that their New York and Milan peers have.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

With all credit to Chiuri and Piccioli, it would be a difficult change to embrace. Imagine these perfect specimens of dresses, in all their artistic glory, being sold immediately after a show, as if they were fast-fashion from Zara and not the intricate work done by the most talented petites mains in the world. It would not only be demeaning to Maison Valentino — it would be practically and logistically impossible. For all intents and purposes, theirs is a noble resistance. And it’s one that we fully support.

The final looks managed to push aside every other gown we’ve seen on the runway this week.

Of the clothes, it can be said that the collection was absolutely faultless, except for one look — a black tutu dress — which took the ballerina inspiration far too literally. Otherwise, the execution was perfect from start to finish, especially as the outfits were toughened up in the first few looks with military coats and combat boots. Other ensembles took inspiration from the lace-ups of a ballerina shoe, with the waists of the models tied up in black lace in a look that referenced the inspiration but didn’t execute it literally — a fine balance only deft hands as rare as Chiuri’s and Piccioli’s can achieve. The final looks, though more melancholic than we’re used to seeing on the Valentino runway, were a series of graceful flesh-colored gowns, some elaborately embellished, others ruffled or pleated, that managed to push aside every other gown we’ve seen on the runway this week.

At this rate, the only designers Chiuri and Piccioli are competing against are themselves and, should they continue at this pace, the applause is only going to get longer. And louder. And louder.

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