Valentino: Master of Couture exhibition

As I was telling you on Friday, last week I attended the Valentino: Master of Couture exhibition at Somerset House. The excitement is hard to describe and it kept mounting up as I was following the red arrows on the floor and stepping down the staircase cascading with chiffon in Valentino red, leading to the Embankment Galleries opening. I was about to experience a rare glimpse into the work of one of the most illustrious designers, a man with an extraordinary eye for elegance, an artist whose name is bonded to haute couture.

The exhibition starts with a room displaying photographs from Valentino’s private collection along with personal notes and letters from fashion designers, fashion people and celebrities, original sketches, magazine cuttings and covers.

Then comes my favourite part, the Catwalk. Only it’s different from the usual catwalk format: this time the viewer is on the runway and the mannequins displaying the designs are in the audience. It feels very special and personal, over 130 pure couture designs, each with a story of its own, each having taken hours or days to complete by hand and each within a hand’s or arm’s reach. Being able to see all those amazing creations up-close was extraordinary: from Monica Vitti’s little black dress she wore in Michelangelo Antonioni’s film La Notte and Jackie Kennedy’s wedding to Aristotel Onassis dress, to Julia Robert’s black velvet and tulle with white silk detailing gown she wore to the 2001 Oscar Ceremony (one of my favourite dresses of all time) and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece’s pearl-encrusted ivory silk wedding gown. There they were: some of the most beautiful, dreamy, glamorous, iconic haute couture designs right in front of my eyes, spanning seven decades, with the ’60s taking a special place in my heart: they felt so modern, so today.

The exhibition wouldn’t be complete without a special section dedicated to the real makers of couture, the skilled artists that make the designer’s creative vision come to life: a behind-the-scene tour of the Valentino atelier, with specially made films demonstrating the exquisite craftsmanship of the petites mains and certain techniques, as the budellini, which I haven’t been aware of, a couture technique specific to Valentino where double charmeuse silk is rolled and sewn around a looped length of wool. It was overwhelming from beginning to end.

An experience to remember and I only wish I was allowed to take photos so that I could keep it alive for a long, long time. Valentino: Master of Couture runs until 3 March 2013.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!

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