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Backstage at Valentino Haute Couture SS15
Left, Yana Van Ginneken (Next), right, Grace Simmons (Next) backstage at Valentino Haute Couture SS15Photography Lea Colombo

Valentino Haute Couture SS15

A folkloric love story collection, inspired by painting and embroidered with poetry

TextSusie LauPhotographyLea Columbo

Initial reaction:

Draped in powder-pink satin, the Hôtel de Rothschild was set up for a love story – one that opened with Jóhann Jóhannsson’s emotive score from Oscar-darling biopic The Theory of Everything, music to translate the intense emotion that creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli succeeded in conveying with their Haute Couture collection. Loosely inspired by the biography of painter Marc Chagall – who was a Russian émigré – the collection mirrored his journey, with lush folkloric embroidery and smocked pieces, then diverged into dreamscape tangents like those Chagall depicted in his expressive paintings. It’s all the prowess of craft and unabashed prettiness which we’ve come to expect from Chiuri and Piccioli. Almost every ensemble linked back to a Chagall painting, but the inspiration is often subtle, save for golden stars that fall onto a strapless, night sky dress. Love, purity and romance prevailed instead. That’s the agile lightness of hand that comes from the creative directors. As texts from Dolce Stil Novo literature, love-ridden lyrics and contemporary poetry start to make their way onto gowns, the show reaches some kind of celestial state – ethereal doesn’t quite sum it up. It’s as simple as the Italian word “Amore” spelled out by one appliquéd dress. If Haute Couture is meant to instil heightened emotion because of the level of craft (emphasised by the stats in the press notes – one dress took 3,500 hours to embroider), then Chiuri and Piccioli have most definitely hit those dizzying heights.

Stand out looks:

Any pieces that had the unexpected use of natural linen, contrasted with the intricate Russian-inspired embroidery and a long jute-like coat heavily embroidered with dense folk patterns. 

Say it with words:

The show of the hand has made an impact these past few weeks in Paris, with Raf Simons’ scribbled memory-laden lab coats and Comme des Garçons Homme Plus’ sentimental tattoo prints. Following this trend, Chiuri and Piccioli selected strong sentences by authors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jacques Prévert and Italian love song lyrics to adorn their gowns – alongside motifs like clouds, stars and rainbows, they also cited monumental texts, such as Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy as inspiration for certain looks. “Amor Vincit Omnia” – “Love conquers all” in Latin – was their final take-home sentiment. What we take from this is that pictures may say a 1000 words, but for Chiuri and Piccioli, certain words are worth their weight.