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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

From Pagan goddesses to Pre-Raphaelites

Suzy Menkes on Valentino Couture show

9 Июля 2014


The Valentino show that closed the winter 2014 couture season was romantic, graceful and very much in the spirit of the house’s recent revival.
 
Backstage, Pre-Raphaelite paintings by artists like Alma-Tadema filled the mood board, along with images of Roman goddesses with transparent swathes of fabrics across nude bodies.


They reappeared quite literally in the show as airy dresses revealing – delicately – a lot of flesh.

‘Pagan goddesses, Imperial Rome, with a truth about beauty,’ said Maria Grazia Chiuri, as she and Pierpaolo Piccioli described the duo’s attitude.
 
The newly-minted Valentino has had a major influence on fashion, bringing back a sense of female privacy. Long sleeves and chaste dresses have been seen across the fashion universe.


‘Memory is an important part of our future’ – Pierpaolo Piccioli   
 

But there has always been previously a sense of underlying reality, which was often missing at this couture show.


For a start, there were the colours – so much off-white, as if drawn from Roman statues, on and used for chaste day dresses, although Art Nouveau flower stalks in black on a white skirt made the look appealing.
 
Winter coats were tough to find, apart from a long green overcoat that blended with the fresh greenery on the backdrop. Or there was a feathered creation that had the feeling of an opera costume.


Other cover-ups came in tapestry fabrics, as though taken from historic furniture. And that sense of the past became increasingly evident in a floor-sweeping gown with a floral surface.
 
Flat sandals lacing up the leg placed the show somewhere in a Roman legend – certainly not in rain-drenched Paris.


‘Memory is an important part of our future,’ Pierpaolo Piccioli said.
 
But what about the history of Valentino, the founding designer who spent nearly half a century making clothes to woo and win his private clients? That is, after all, the essence of haute couture. The clothes that came out on the runway, however romantic, seemed a doubtful fit with Kim Kardashian, with her 21st-century body con, sitting front row.

Then there is Valentino the brand, which has had a youthquake revival without any of the shake-ups and dramas those words suggest. In fact, it is probably the established fashion house with the smoothest transfer to new hands.


There certainly is a following for the graceful and gentle gestures of the current design duo. And perhaps they would argue that practicality can be found in their ready-to-wear.
 
Valentino presents the essence and the dichotomy of  haute couture today. For the customer? For the image? For fantasy – or for real?


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