i have never been a huge fan or follower of valentino, but then again i am also not the target audience the label has classically been designed for. valentino has never been visually pleasing to me, nor relevant to my personal taste. the house is not particularly innovative, in my opinion, and for the most part i find that luxury brands that sell not only clothes but a specific lifestyle are rather formulaic in their point of view. (for good reason, obviously, as garavani built an empire out of designing feminine and extravagant clothing–his silhouettes are simply directed towards a customer that i am not.)
i was not very concerned when the designer retired in 2007 and was replaced by alessandra facchinetti, or when facchinetti was fired and replaced by the former accessories duo maria grazia chiuri and pier paolo piccioli. that is, until last season.
the interesting thing about the creative directors that succeeded the labels namesake is that while facchinetti was very publicly scorned by both valentino and his business partner giancarlo giammetti, chiuri and piccioli have, after two safe seasons, drastically re-designed the very core of valentino. at the beginning of their career giametti was quoted as saying: “valentino’s style is very strong and recognizable which can only be taken forward, with necessary updating, by those who love it, respect it and above all know it perfectly.” i would be interested to know his opinion on the fall 2009 couture and the spring 2010 ready-to-wear collections.
valentino couture fall/winter 2009, view the whole collection at style.com
i was, personally, blown away by this collection. it is maybe not entirely refined, but the thought process is there, down to perfectly executed detailing
i can’t really comment on the evolution of the houses aesthetic, but this collection has not really “updated” valentino’s sophisticated jackets and evening dresses but is something else entirely in itself. in fact, it’s hard to call this valentino at all. we can apply the same adjectives–this collection is elegant, feminine, and over-the-top, but not in the way we think of valentino. from my point of view this is not necessarily a bad thing, but i can understand that the label has an established look that some believe should be preserved.
we can try and apply the different reinterpretations of houses like givenchy and christian dior under different creative directors, but this is perhaps different in that valentino hasn’t yet had a long series of designers and collections following garavani’s retirement. there is no culmination of what valentino looks like reimagined by new designers who do not feel obligated by the red dress.
chiuri and piccioli chose clearly in their couture collection to design for a younger woman, and continued to explore their vision more completely with their spring/summer 2010 collection.
valentino spring/summer 2010, view the whole collection at style.com
again here the fabrication is romantic, feminine, and luxurious, but despite, and perhaps even because of the use of sheer and the abbreviated hemlines, this collection is not overtly sexy.
i think that the fall 09 couture collection was not received well because it was presented at a time where fashion was fairly one-dimensional. valentino is a label that you expect the expected from, but these two collections in conjunction with each other prove that chiuri and piccioli are not designers designing towards what people want, but instead towards their vision.
i love these both of these collections because they combine concepts that we think of as blatantly feminine with the gothic quality of dark feathers, sculptural yet barely-there heels, masks, and black nail polish. there is nothing contrived in any of these looks, and i would argue that valentino spring 2010 was one of the only during fashion month that presented well as a whole collection.
i’m very, very excited to see the development of valentino in the long run.