Trained in Paris and inspired by Rome, Valentino Garavani has been the master of Italian couture since the opening of his first fashion house in the late 50s. He is one of the last living designers who still believes in haute couture in a world of prêt-a-porter and defends the work of human hands and expert craftsmanship in the making of his gowns. Due to his unique standing and legacy in the fashion world, Valentino’s retirement in 2008 spawned a number of celebrations of his work, including a film and, recently, a retrospective exhibition at Somerset House in London.
“Valentino: Master of Couture” offers a unique look into the designer’s private life instead of focusing solely on his work, having a wide range of personal photographs and signed souvenirs from renowned personalities on display. The sketches for the original designs, attached to the respective fabric swatches and dating from all decades, are amazing to look at and draw you into the creative process of his work. Also present are some of the fashion show invitations sent out throughout the years, giving visitors a peek into the general design aesthetic of Valentino as a brand, beyond the couture itself.
The main section, however, is the “Catwalk”. A long, well-lit white corridor, it possesses an astounding amount of couture gowns and ensembles dating from the early sixties right up until the moment of Valentino’s retirement. Unfortunately, it fails to show a historical evolution of fashion as it is not chronologically organized, which forces you to consult the catalogue for information on every single mannequin. There is also an astounding lack of “Valentino red”. The beauty of the pieces, some quite iconic, does make up for the informational gap if your purpose is entertainment as opposed to education.
The exhibition as a whole does quite well as a visual retrospective but sadly lacks textual information to provide background for the less fashion-savvy. If you are a fan of Valentino’s work, however, you will definitely find enjoyment merely in seeing all the memorable outfits with your own eyes, as well as having a glimpse into the life of “the last emperor”.
29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013
24 & 31 Dec: 10.00-16.00, 25 & 26 Dec: closed,
1 Jan: 12.00-18.00
SOMERSET HOUSE, Embankment Galleries, South Wing