At Valentino, the Transformative Power of Couture Is Fully Realized

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Haute couture – real couture – is not what most people use as a blanket term to describe all of high fashion. It adheres to rigorous standards and is overseen by a governmental body, but most of all, it means incredibly crafted clothes that are made to an individual body’s exact measurements and specifications. It’s one of a kind. What could be more humanistic than that?

At Valentino’s Fall 2019 Couture show, Pierpaolo Piccioli was inspired by Irving Penn’s Worlds in a Small Room series, which the photographer created in an “ambulant studio” in locations around the world – Peru, Nepal, the Sahara Desert – in order to capture images of indigenous peoples. Released in 1974, it offered the world a first glimpse at cultures they had never seen before.

Using Penn’s works as a starting point, Piccioli hammered the human home. But humans come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, skin tones, hair colors, eye colors – the variations are infinite. With diversity at the fore, the designer celebrated the human and, how when ornamented and adorned, we can occasionally edge on superhuman.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

His models resembled rare birds of paradise, astonishing creatures that were as exotic as they were exquisite. In a rich burst of colors – sunflower yellow, tangerine, lime green, jade, eggplant purple, coral, crimson, sapphire, teal, lavender, fuschia – the collection was as multidimensional as the human tapestry itself.

A diverse line-up of models furthered the message of diversity and humanism, in defiance of tradition.

At the center of it all was the craft, exalted in unexpected textures of yarn, flurries of feather, ruffled poofs, and glittering embellishment. A diverse line-up of models furthered the message of diversity and humanism, in defiance of tradition. They were all ages (at 75, Lauren Hutton stalked through the corridors of the space with cheers following her progress down the catwalk), all backgrounds, all creeds. And like the fashion shows of decades ago, there were tears at the end. The emotion that flooded from the audience was a palpable approval of the theme and its execution – if celebrating the individual looks this good, what’s stopping everyone else from embracing the same message?

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