PFW: VALENTINO F/W 2016

Valentino F/W 2016
Valentino F/W 2016

How many times have you looked at a low-cut dress or blouse with only thin spaghetti straps holding it up, and thought, “I can’t wear that because I’ll fall out of it,” or “it’s too risqué,” or “I’d freeze if that’s all I wear?” Valentino has an answer to those and any other issue one might have with a low-cut dress: wear a nude colored long-sleeved turtleneck underneath it. Problem solved.

Actually, I don’t know whether that particular look will actually catch on; it’s a styling choice rather than a fashion mandate and whether or not it is appropriate depends not only upon the person wearing it, but the occasion and the season. There were more than enough looks in this huge Valentino collection, though, that if the turtleneck-under-the-dress look doesn’t capture your imagination, something else is almost certain to do so.

As much as we hear about the luxury fashion world being in the economic doldrums, Valentino is the most extreme exception. Last week they announced that not only had they beaten last year’s revenue projections, but they had exceeded projections for the next two years, with over a billion dollars in total sales. That was huge news for the brand and certainly had an effect on the attention that today’s show received. Yes, Valentino is always an in-demand ticket, but the media presence at today’s show was higher than ever, and a lof of it was not from the typical fashion magazines to which we are accustomed. Adding to the clamor was a Business of Fashion article this morning discussing the possibility that the label may go public, with a possible IPO being discussed for next year.

Whether that trend of expectation-busting revenue continues hinges in no small part upon reaction to today’s seemingly endless stream of ballerinas. Yes, we know that every little girl harbors the fantasy of putting on tights and dancing on her toes, but what we saw this afternoon was much more real, more extensive than one might have fantasized. This is a collection where tulle skirts are the norm, where thin looks are requisite, and one fully expects that, at some juncture, the models will all pose en pointe and dance the rest of the way around the catwalk. Looks are light and full of chiffon, embellished with crystals, and ready for a night at the Met, or perhaps a red carpet somewhere.

While heavy coats hide the first couple of looks, from the very beginning there is a lightness to this collection, even when it’s done in head-to-toe black. There were times when the looks were so light that it seemed the only thing holding models down were the clunky, chunky boots that some of them wore. In fact, those boots were the only thing in the entire collection with any real heft to them. In addition to the dresses, the overcoats are also very delicate. Delightfully, there’s not a puffer coat nor a bomber jacket to be found anywhere in this line. Thank you.

Yes, we do see some leather. In fact, one of the most interesting looks is leather pieces covered in little metal plates, giving the pieces a look closely resembling ancient armor. However, even under that we find tulle and crinolin, so that a potentially hard, edgy look stays soft enough to befit a ballerina. There is also a beautiful gown done in feathers and some wonderful knit coats and sweaters, but nothing in this collection is deisgned to way down the wearer. Instead, we get clothes that encourage movement and seem to be at their best when the wearer is walking.

Prints are the prize of the collection, though they don’t show up until we’re 22 looks in. Triangles are the major theme here, and their color and texture are done wonderfully across a set of both dresses and coats without adding to the bulk of either. Set against a tan/peach background, there’s a sense in which the triangles tend to look like pyramids and might infer a certain cultural relation, but that also ends up feeling like costuming for a grand ballet.

Yes, there are some low-cut pieces without turtlenecks under them and there is plenty of sheer that might require a slip or camisole to be appropriate for some situations. There’s nothing here that doesn’t refer to dancing and lightness, though. The theme permeates the collection. The only question is: will you buy it?

Creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have already done a lot to bring the Valentino brand into commercial viability. The challenge before them now is to maintain that growth. They’ve staked a lot on this lighter-than-air collection. Let’s hope it pays off.

 

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