Monday, January 7, 2013

EXHIBITION: Valentino, The Master of Couture

The iconic promotional poster

A few days ago I attended Somerset House in London to go and see Valentino's collection of dresses titled 'Valentino: Master of Couture'. I found it a rich, romantic and fascinating experience but not all together satisfying.

Valentino had drawn in crowds of fashionista's and curious ladies alike and understandably to view the grand collection cost ₤12.50 per head. The show begun with an entrance hall adorned with a light-up Valentino rose and cases displaying hand written letters of adoration for Valentino from the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, as well as sketches of iconic designs through the ages of his work and snapshots of the man himself with his beloved pugs.

The first room with hologram light projected over Valentino's iconic rose

The exhibition then led you up a stair case to the 'run way' styled show of gowns, displaying iconic pieces from Valentino's glorious body of work spanning across 60 years. The long walkway was surrounding by seating with name tags of famous guests who had attended his shows over the years, and in between that seating stood mannequins wearing his pieces. The dresses are absolutely phenomenal and I did appreciate how close you were to them as you could really soak in the details and craftsmanship of each piece.

The diversity in styles chosen was notabable and also quite profound- for someone so iconic his body of work sure did embrace all extremes in design from stunning beaded gowns to pop 60's frocks and has captured the hearts of generations of women from all walks of life and fame.

Furthermore in the name of crafstmanship, the small videos and displays delving into the techniques of his seamstesses at the show's conclusion was brief yet insightful and none the less highly fascinating for a girl with such little knowledge in dress making.

A sample of the technique demonstrations in the last room

Yet I still felt quite un-satisfied as I left the building. Yes, the dresses were amazing, but perhaps I'm not emotionally invested in fashion to the extent of others who attended. Or perhaps the show was just not that immersive- the walkway styled show room did leave little space to wander at your own pace as crowds of women pushed their way along discussing, most commonly with noses-in-air, what to me spelt pure couture-scaled bull. I was also dissapointed in the lack of detail in the guide you are handed when you purchase your ticket- it basically points out what each dress looks like, as you can see it right in front of you, and is devoid of any interesting facts that I would have loved to have heard about such as materials, inspiration and things of the like. The small glossary of seamstress techniques and fabric specifics was useful though.

The master himself in the middle of the 'runway' styled display

So all in all, the man is amazing, the exhibition is good, the dresses are (mostly) beautiful (but that's just down to a matter of taste as they are all impressive to say the least)...but my highlight of the day was the surprise free exhibition from Tim Walker in the next wing. More on that later.

Would I recommend you go? Absolutely Yes! And to prove that point, here are a few of my favourites to tease and tantalize...

A breathtaking standout to me was this white chiffon evening gown with budellini technique detailing
(S/S 1993, with image credits going to

A S/S 1969 salmon pink three-piece pleated ensemble. Image credit

(From left) Dress #2 and Dress #5
Image credit

And that's all I can find online of my few standout pieces, unfortunately you're not allowed to take photos so you're going to have to run along yourself!
The exhibition is at Somerset House on the Strand, London and runs from the 29th of November 2012 until the 3rd of March in 2013.

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