A while ago I posted a rather over excited piece about the much-anticipated Valentino: Master of Couture exhibition at Somerset House. At last all those hours of wishing, waiting and wondering came to an end yesterday morning when Mr Valentino himself unveiled the exhibition to a selection of London press. Actually that’s not entirely true. I got to sneak a peak at the exhibition a couple of weeks ago thanks to the fact that my course tutor at Central Saint Martins just so happens to be one of the curators behind it! When my classmates and I saw the exhibition a fortnight before the opening, it was undeniably and let’s face it, unsurprisingly impressive. Well in it’s full, public ready incarnation it was nothing short of majestic.
Having had a not-so-early night at the British Fashion Awards afterparty on Tuesday, few things would have enticed me out of bed the following morning. Obviously, vintage Valentino couture is one of them. After a few charming words from the man himself, standing beneath an enormous sculpture of his signature rose illuminated with transforming projections, we were unleashed on an array of ensembles so dazzling it was almost overwhelming. As the exhibition’s curator (our course tutor) Alistair O’Neil explained, they wanted to create a display modeled on a traditional couture catwalk but with the Valentino clad mannequins artfully arranged in the seating area while the visitor walks the runway. I’m currently grappling with a curation project for Uni and frankly, I have no idea how anyone comes up with an inventive concept for an exhibition but luckily, they manage it! The Valentino looks are arranged thematically in groupings such as “animal print”, “florals” and “cut lace”. I think the decision to do this, rather than display them chronologically, was inspired as it really reiterates how consistent the handwriting of the house has remained over more than fifty years. But of course, at the time all I could really think about was the sheer gorgeousness of each and every one of the dresses.
With no glass cases to contend with, you can really get up close to the garments to have a good old gawp at the painstakingly intricate detailing and the fact that a human being can create something quite as exquisite as Valentino couture gowns never fails to astound me.The craftsmanship and team of skilled individuals behind the clothes is something that Maison Valentino has always prized itself on highly and Master of Couture at Somerset House really brought to light beautifully. After passing through the couture catwalk space which, trust me, will take a while, you return downstairs to be floored by the spectacle of Princess Marie Chantal of Greece’s wedding dress (oh to be a Valentino bride!) before moving in to an area devoted to the couture techniques used to create the stunning ensembles displayed upstairs. The final display is an incredible elabourate cape demonstrating the complex ‘paginet’ technique and reminding you that the sartorial spectacle you’ve just witnessed is as much down to his army of skilled seamstresses as it is to Mr V.
The past couple of years have been fantastic for fashion exhibitions but the combination of jaw-dropping frocks and insider insight makes this one a firm favourite. Valentino: Master of Couture is on at Somerset House until March 2013 and I highly, HIGHLY recommend you go and see it!
Love Ella. X
Images courtesy of Peter MacDiarmid