“A cabinet of curiosities.” What a splendid starting point for couture, a realm supposedly unique as well as sublime. The notion worked beautifully for Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, whose now-identifiable signature — romantic elegance evocative of Renaissance portraiture — has a pristine core well-suited to surface eccentricity.
“Very interesting pieces, big or strange, we wanted to create something related to ,” Piccioli said during a preview. “It’s like are dreaming about something mysterious.” The designers set the mood with their first look out: a gown of antiqued golden guipure lace worked to frame a series of pictorial oddities — rhinoceros and what appeared to be hybrid mythological beasts. Different, indeed, and intriguing. Yet this did not lead to a wildlife fest. Rather, the designers let their curiosity run to other areas of the natural world and beyond. One gown came in an elaborate shell-patterned brocade while a coral motif showed up variously as black-and-silver brocade and a number of intricate embroideries. In the midst, there was one mistake. The show closed with a full-skirted gown in a demonstrative print of eclectic mien — rhino, snake, insects, sea creatures — seamed in the back with an un-haute lack of precision. That was, however, a rare misstep made up for elsewhere in perfectly engineered lacework and embroideries.
Curiosity is not limited to artful expression; throughout this couture season, designers displayed an increased attention to daywear. Chiuri and Piccioli’s was breathtaking. They worked in substantial, sometimes mannish fabrics tempered with a feminine flourish — a tweed coat and skirt with a whisper-delicate lace blouse; a cashmere cape cut into a graphic lace. The clothes looked utterly modern while recalling a time when chic elegance was considered a fashion virtue. “We wanted to say that couture is alive,” Piccioli said, “to give a perception of couture which is of the moment for modern women, that they can wear couture in their own private life and not just for the red carpet.” Hear, hear. WWD