PFW: VALENTINO F/W 2014

I sometimes wonder, as I watch the very creative variations that designers take on a given period, whether what is being produced today is a distinctive enough style that designers 50 years from now will be able to look back and do the same. So many of our silhouettes this season have come from the past, yet, are we doing enough to put an indelible time stamp on this current decade? Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have a daunting task being creative directors for such a storied maison as Valentino; one that can’t be easy when the legendary designer himself can pop in at any time and give his opinion on a collection. This season, though, everyone was all smiles as the team looked back a bit on the 1960s, per the trend, before setting their own mark for future generations.

Once again, this is a huge 70-piece collection so you’ll forgive me if, in the interest of time, I just hit a few of the high points. Polka dots, the large, pop-art kind, dominated the first several looks and did a good job of establishing that 60s vibe. Walking down the runway against soft piano jazz, the feeling of being in an upscale lounge during that era ran strong through ensembles that brought back memories of Bridgitte Bardot and Peggy Lipton. While the fabrics have certainly changed, gone is the polyester and super-charged is a green, black, and red leather cape, the genteel shape that hints at an hourglass was unmistakable.

As skirts got shorter, flower appliqued collars put a definite modern stamp on some classic go-go looks complete with knee-high red boots. So it goes through much of the collection. Several times, the retro reference is undeniable, still, Chiuri and Piccioli push the creativity into the pieces. Sometimes it is the smallest details that make all the difference. One shining example comes with the variety of capes seen throughout the collection. Instead of using a button or zipper fastening, as we’ve seen in other collections, here we see a very smart leather and brass buckle, a fastener that is strong and secure, and keeps a contemporary feel to the garment.

While several labels have explored one half of the 60s or the other, pretty much the entire decade is represented throughout this collection. The neat, clean lines of the early half of the decade come first, but then we see a shift to the more bohemian styles of the latter part of the decade. Strong here are heavy tapestry florals and an interesting take on patchwork. While the florals are certainly attractive, texture added to the patchwork makes it very appealing in its multi-coloured awesomeness. The styling brought into this look is rather dramatic, especially when applied to gowns. Where the team just goes off the hook with the style, though, is when they convert the same approach to solid-colored, namely white, sheer; the effect is absolutely stunning. Yes, one is going to need a full-length slip to wear this out in public (at least in the U.S.), but the styling perfectly bridges the past with the present.

So much this collection works well, which is a bit surprising when there are so many pieces and such a variety of looks. What doesn’t work is minimal: a black, shapeless leather dress and long fringe on a coat that guarantees getting caught on everything one passes are the only ensembles I found off-putting. Many of the looks are imagined both as day wear and as evening gowns. Of course, the gown versions use lighter fabric and are definitely more sexy in their nocturnal approach to fashion, but it demonstrates the strength of the concepts to be able to work for multiple purposes.

The finale gown this season is not red. I know, shocker, isn’t it? I don’t think the look would work in red, though. What the team has done is gather sheer chiffon under a red applique pop-art heart that sits over the left breast. The tulle skirt below is applique and beadwork full of celestial designs popular with the astrological movement of the period. Done on a blue base, the effect is stunning and elicited cheers from some in the crowd.

Valentino had a lot to smile about as he greeted his young design team after the show. Remembering the styles of the past is one thing, creating new styles worth remembering is another. With fashion as we’ve seen it today, the Valentino legacy should continue for a very long time.

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