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Valentino Womenswear SS13

Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli looked to the house’s roots in Roma for their latest collection

PhotographyLea ColomboTextSusie Lau

In the final swell of collections, the brands that are concrete in their identity are finally not swaying to the uniform trend arcs of the season.  Valentino, both under its founder and the current designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli do unabashedly feminine clothes that are beautifully restrained and they’re not about to go into unfamiliar territory. In recent seasons Chiuri and Piccioli have galvanised the house into the 21st century, turning out collections that are respectful to Valentino Garavani’s vision as well as applying their hand of slightly subversive sweetness that is appealing to anyone aged 18 to 80. For their latest collection, they looked back to Rome, the birthplace of the house and the post-war neo-realist cinema, which came about at a time of social change. Chiuri and Piccioli translated that into a subtle sensuality that is captivating in the first impacting look – a black slip dress with fagoted lines running down the dress, revealing glimpses of flesh.  This was worked into nude leather, something of a house trait. They mine the elegance of Roman women in 1940s to 50s period for little gestures such as slip dresses underneath buttoned up, high-necked dresses, rows of fiddly bygone covered buttons and house dressing gowns made into convincing day dresses. Their rose-tinted memories though are always hardened with something that isn’t purely saccharine and overtly feminine – trenchcoats in snakeskin-panelled PVC or Valentino red leather aren’t pieces to be messed around with and add a protective element to much of the vulnerability and delicacy of the collection. Even something as sweet as a daisy cut-outs in a white lace dress seems somewhat hardened.  That’s down to the precision and restraint that the duo manages to straddle with their sweet sensibility as well as their veneration for the house’s traditions. The final passage of evening dresses, high-necked, floor-length and slightly fitted at the waist best summarise this duality. The lines are meticulous but look closer to take in the ethereal embroidery in white and silver, bead and thread work that definitely came from the skilled mani of this storied Roman atelier.