Monday, 11 February 2013

Valentino: Master of Couture

How very apt, I think to myself. The name given to Valentino’s current exhibition at Somerset House, that is - a conclusion I reach after leaving the final set of doors. 

Here is a man who personifies la dolce vita, creating works of art in the form of elegant dresses for glamorous women, from Jackie Kennedy to Audrey Hepburn. Offering a rare glimpse into the inner sanctum of Valentino’s world, the exhibition is staged in three parts. The first room delves into Valentino’s private life, showcasing previously unseen personal photographs, couture invitations, sketches and words of thanks from the industry’s most feared and admired - who knew Anna Wintour would have such enormous bubble-esque handwriting. 

The centrepiece of the show sees the transformation of the long Embankment Gallery into a catwalk of Valentino’s 138 hand-crafted creations. In a clever reversal of roles, the “audience” is in fact made up of mannequins dressed in the priceless couture we have all flocked to see, and it is we, the viewers, who are on the runway. While the dresses are not placed in the centre of attention literally, our attention on them remains quite so - their positioning on the side of the catwalk does not distract us from their beauty and diversity.

The third and final part of the show takes us behind the seams at the atelier through a series of specially made films, showing the painstaking artistry of the couture techniques that go into making a Valentino gown, some of which are unique to Valentino - awe-inspiring indeed.

Valentino and his dresses 
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid

A/W 2002, 2003  HC romantic Valentino Red taffeta evening gown © Valentino Garavani
Photo by Virtual Museum

Valentino dress from S/S 1969, 2000 
Photo by Ruven Affanador

Wedding dress of Princess Marie-Chantal © Valentino Garavani
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid

Catwalk of dresses © Valentino Garavani
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid

Running until 3rd March 2013 at Somerset House 
Admission: £12.50, Concessions £9

My piece above is published on where I contribute regularly.

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