Valentino Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2019

by Long Nguyen

Pierpaolo Piccioli did something unique in this Paris spring/summer haute couture season: he instilled a range of emotions into each of the garments sent out at the packed Hôtel de Rothschild to the tunes of classical and opera music. The show closed with Naomi Campbell in a sumptuous black sheer chiffon blouse and black taffeta ruffled long skirt paired with the sensual vocals of Roberta Flack singing her hit song ‘The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face.’ The intensity of the clothes explored deeply and more elaborately the grand silhouettes, audacious colors, and impeccable craftsmanship all within the couture framework from the fall 2018 show last July, reiterating that fashion is a journey - an especially unique one in couture - where one step marching forward is built upon the past and on the crisps of the future.  

The show opened with easy and luxurious day clothes in an array of vibrant colors – a repertoire including a fancy white organza blouse with loose flowing orange pants, a light mustard silk coat paired with an opened white shirt and light green cigarette pants, or an ivory cashmere reversible coat with pleated leaf green silk pants. The day clothes exuded an easy elegance, yet the evening wear - couture’s main course - exploded with voluminous but manageable silhouettes like a brown gazar blouse embroidered with ivory lace and rhinestones paired with a floral print faille skirt or a pink ball gown in taffeta with incrustations of laces that required over 700 hours of handiwork alone. Dresses came in diverse shapes from deep blue ruffled silk to tent-shaped khaki jacquard. A tulle dress entirely embroidered with lace cut into flowers was particularly outstanding. Somehow, these oversized dresses in all of their magnanimity didn’t appear heavy in substance as their sheer volume and light fabrics allowed for movement. Each time a model passed by, the dress moved to the rhythm of her body: action framing fantasy and reality in one garment.

At Valentino, then and now, “the vocabulary, not the language, of couture changes,” said the designer responsible for the extravaganza of fine details. Piccioli applied all the elements associated with haute couture – ruffles, frills, fringes, volumes, flowers, embroideries, lacework et al – which merged together on each garment preserving the knowledge, but creating a garment for a different generation of women. It was not left unnoticed how diverse the casting of the show was, and the only show this couture season to have featured a over two thirds of the girls as black models – from newcomers to superstars. If the couture craftsmanship and methodology remained steadfastly traditional, the casting of these women are its modern facet. At the very least, on the runway the intentional diverse casting embraced the future road for couture and undoubtedly changed the look at Valentino at a show that deserved the applause as the guests stood to salute the designer as he entered each of the ornate salons.

Photos courtesy of Valentino