Elegance and the call of faraway lands echoed in the distance as Valentino's models strolled down the catwalk during the recent Paris fashion shows. Sporting lace and embroidery, tapestry-rich colours, wearing leather or braided decorations, the girls glided lightly, with the kind of reserved femininity Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli apply to every collection. Little to see and lots to imagine was the theme for Valentino, which pointed to the ankle as a "new spot of sensuality", with the dress hem lightly brushing the semi-exposed lower leg.
In the Jardin des Tuileries, on the penultimate day of the Paris prêt-a-porter show, a fashion house that has been able to rejuvenate itself without losing its identity was applauded. Happily, this miracle of intelligence, respect and know-how is fully Italian. The premise, albeit a slightly chauvinistic one, is necessary as the two designers have drawn on a style made of local flavours that also brushed on universal.
Interconnected folklore from around the world represents the different facets of culture and, given that the subject is fashion, aesthetics. On the catwalk, such reasoning can quickly enter the realm of the ethnic, though this was not the case during the show. Chiuri and Piccioli treated the experience lightly and without overbearing exotic tones. The collection is indeed very Italian, and not only because it is made in Turin with able craftsmanship that converts easily to industrial production, but also because the two stylists will turn these small masterpieces into prêt-a-porter to be cleverly sold in shops.
The merry-go-round begins in black leather, with gaucho skirts, long trenchcoats, small lace dresses, jackets and coats with braiding details. Black is important - 'So Noir' is the name of a new series of limited edition and precious accessories - and is the basis for the fur patchworks, damasks and embroidery on square coats to be worn over evening dresses. Norwegian jumpers emboldened by macramé and Persian lamb jackets with ribbon trim are worn with straight, thin trousers, slightly short, falling above tango shoes and kept in place by a high belt.
There is no shortage of colour. The longuette dress is akin to a Caucasian rug busily embroidered with micro-glitter, while there is a Balkan touch in the knot of flowers on the transparent, gathered dress, with a cut bodice and bare neck. The structure looks simple but is in fact very studied. The square and embroidered jacket, without a neck or buttons, is perfect with a long silk dress. The blue coat decorated with an array of black braids, and the white version with modern frogging on tubular fabric are difficult to forget as they sashay down the catwalk. One embroidered lace dress with a cross shape is made to look like porcelain. Valentino's red series has the modernity of leather plastron on the coat but also the soft touch of capes on the neckline of the dress. The list goes on and on, with every item telling its own story, but it is only right to finish the story with the sound of applause from the enthusiastic audience.
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