Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Valentino, Couture Masterclass

Phenomenal. Inspiring. Magnificent. Gorgeous. Legendary. These five words go some way to describing the Valentino Restrospective; Past/Present/Future which opened at Brisbane's GoMA gallery last Friday night but only some way. Valentino Garavani requires little introduction to fashionistas as one of the world's great designers and the only designer to have been recognised by the French government as an official haute couture house outside of France. His life has been a sparkling cavalcade of fabulous women; Jackie O, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett head up a raft of movie stars, princesses and socialites who quite literally loved Valentino - many became close personal friends. Walking into the exhibition the stature of the garments themselves is overwhelming. This is fashion as art, and art as fashion...Blacklog readers, New Zealand or Australian who have been considering a weekend away in the next few months, we encourage you to make the trip to Brisbane to see this. It will be well worth your while.

Each of the garments has been 100% hand-sewn by Valentino's army of artisans and to see the absolute mountain of work, time and craftmanship that has gone into each creation is breathtaking, like great art should be. Every piece also has a life, and provenance, of its own and whilst the fashion trends that emerged through the five decades of Valentino's work are there for all to see, every garment on show transcends time, genre and trend effortlessly.

Above and below: Jackie Kennedy-Onassis's wedding gown

If fashion can tell a story, then each of Valentino's creations are a book unto themselves and there is a library of stories on offer. Anyone who has seen Valentino; The Last Emperor will remember the scene when Andre Leon-Talley enters the atelier to be given two kaftans, his signature look, by Valentino. It is only upon seeing the exhibition that we realised why he was so excited and happy with the gifts. The kaftans have been made from the same material as two of Valentino's quintessentially '60's pieces, one of these pieces is below and the other stands to its side.

We have a new appreciation of detail in fashion. The gown above has been encrusted with a sea of beading that is almost impossible to comprehend unless you see it with your own eyes. The man hours involved in sewing each of these tiny beads and sequins is mind-boggling.

The gown (above) was worn by the model's model, Veruschka, who was one of Valentino's many muses in the late '60s. The work (below) of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierre Paolo Piccioli is one of five gowns from the pair who assumed the mantle of creative directors at the House of Valentino after his retirement in 2008, and was equally fabulous to the eye. The house is in safe hands...

The white (and black and white) ranges of the '60's showed that, whether working in vibrant colour like Valentino Red or monotone shades, the great designer was often at the forefront of the fashion of the time. The '68 white collection was legendary for the near complete use of white in perhaps the most psychedelic year of all time. Valentino created masterpieces, no matter the palette or contemporary trends.

As we have said above, it is the detail in each creation combined with the masterful understanding of form, silhouette and tailoring that fascinates and enthralls. The remaining pictures on this post speak for themselves. Magnificent...

Valentino Retrospective; Past/Present/Future
Gallery of Modern Art, South Bank, Brisbane, Australia
August 7 - November 14, 2010