Thursday 16 July 2015

Valentino in Rome: Light at the Heart of the City's Darkness

Modern Roman princess: golden gladiator sandals and a dress decorated with wheat sheaves captures Rome's ancient & contemporary excesses. "Rome is a very layered city, a sinister city ~ it is not a postcard. Paganism, Catholicism, imperialism and baroque ~  we wanted to show Rome as living history," says creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli
Valentino’s evocative haute couture collection shown in Rome’s historic heart at Piazza Mignanelli was set against the scenic backdrop of Renaissance palazzi and the great column of the Madonna of the Imaculate Conception. The atmospheric show offered light, beauty and opulence amid the unkempt Eternal City's current woes of near bankruptcy and an internecine corruption scandal, reports Jeanne-Marie Cilento

ROMAN sylphs clad in floating black, red and golden gowns adorned with filigree coronets and elaborate parures, strolled through Valentino’s haute couture autumn/winter 2015 show at twilight in Piazza Mignanelli. Artist Pietro Ruffo designed a wooden, modernist confection of the Roman Forum as a backdrop to the majestic collection by Valentino's award-winning creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli.

Maria Grazia Chiuri & Pierpaolo Piccioli 
"Rome is a very layered city, a very sinister city, it’s not a postcard,” Mr. Piccioli said. “And all the layers are still there: paganism, Catholicism, imperialism, baroque. It’s a balance that is entirely unique. We wanted to show Rome as living history.”

The beautiful spectacle in Piazza Mignanelli, along with exhibitions of Valentino creations in the 18th-century Casanatense library and the Bath of Diana, were held in a city wracked by the Rome Commune’s Mafia Capital scandal, struggles with bankruptcy and crumbling public services. The corruption investigation has engulfed Rome's city hall, housed in a Renaissance palace designed by Michelangelo overlooking the ruins of the ancient Roman forum. The probe and the first wave of arrests have rattled Italy, suggesting organised crime is flourishing far beyond its base in Southern Italy. Collapsing under 14 billion euros ($15.5 billion) of debt, Rome was only saved from complete bankruptcy by emergency state funds. Today, the ancient stony streets of the centro storico are dim, grimy and pot-holed, making a strong contrast to the sleek new Valentino store in Piazza Mignanelli, the brand’s largest retail space in the world at more than 20,000 square feet.

Tilda Swinton & Mika at the Valentino show in Rome
This type of fashion extravaganza has not been in the city seen since Valentino Garavani, founder of the Valentino fashion house, celebrated its 45th anniversary in Rome in 2007 with a retrospective at the Museo dell’Ara Pacis, ball at the Villa Borghese, and dinner and fireworks at the Temple of Venus. Ms. Chiuri and Mr. Piccioli became creative directors of the brand six years ears ago and have skillfully brought their own aesthetic to Valentino. “Everything is so global now, we think it’s very important to be personal,” Mr. Piccioli said. “We feel a social responsibility to this job,” Ms. Chiuri added. “We can’t talk only about clothes."

Yet the designers have brilliantly captured both the discipline and rigour of ancient Rome and the extravagant folly of the 16th Century baroque in a collection full of chiaroscuro: strong contrasts of light and dark all worn with 
Rigorous yet lavishly embellished
flat gladiator sandals and boots in black or gold, and golden necklaces, belts and crowns and the motif of the eagle. "We love Rome's beauty, its contrasts, its multiple facets, its ability to change in time and to project itself into the future,” explains Maria Grazia Chiuri. Long, draped gowns in semi-transparent organza or shimmering velvet were mixed with curvilinear wool capes with pure lines and brocade trim, and short dresses created from intertwined golden feathers and wheat fronds. Cardinal Red organza dresses with full skirts under sheer tops and sleeveless gladiatorial gowns of silk crepe under embroidered gold leather. The eagle, the symbol of the Roman legions was used throughout the collection, a painting Mr. Piccioli and Ms. Chiuri uncovered while renovating their atelier in Rome was recreated on velvet backed. The great domed ceiling of the Pantheon was embroidered almost three-dimensionally onto an asymmetric caped minidress and other gowns were made in a brocade of mosaics.

The designers with actor Ben Stiller at the candlelit dinner
After the dramatic show in Piazza Mignanelli close to the Spanish Steps, the designers were given a standing ovation. And the great and good of fashionable Rome along with guests including Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson sat down to a candle-lit, romantic dinner set under the trees of the gardens at the 17th-century Villa Aurelia, looking out over the Eternal City, lights twinkling despite the dark tremors at it’s heart.

 Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli created long, fluid dresses evoking a dark and fragile poetry: "We love Rome's beauty, its contrasts, its multiple facets, its ability to change in time and to project itself into the future.”

A draped, flowing dress like an ancient Roman statue of a goddess with opulent embellishments in opaque gold 

Embroidery with metallic thread adorns this gown creating a three dimensional effect 

Delicate, beaded dress falling in long vertical folds of organza with a richly-sculpted necklace and fine gold coronet of stars and bees 

Alessandro Gaggio’s jewellery adds an element of drama to the regal looks including the stars of the Altieri family and the bee representing the Barberini.

For the Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2015-16 collection creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli wanted to show a Rome full of both opulence and a dark beatuy

 The designers also wanted to express the essence of Rome in the collection through the quality of the materials and textures and create a "multisensory" experience like this dress in lace and feathers.
Long organza dresses in Cardinal red with sheer tops and full skirts were one of the key motifs in the collection

The leather folds of ancient Rome's soldiers are cleverly reworked to create a long gladiatorial gown embroidered in red and black.
The great domed ceiling of the Pantheon embroidered almost three dimensionally on a caped minidress."With the Valentino Mirabilia Romae project we wanted to depict through our eyes the beauties of the city of Rome, a constant source of inspiration for us ~ both the ancient and the new," say designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli.

Coats and capes have a monastic austerity in line that is leavened by rich autumnal flowers 
As light as air, the Valentino evening gowns subtly reveal and conceal the body

Unexpected contemporary detailing gave the collection a richness and depth and a sense of modernity
Golden wheat sheaves give this splendid evening dress a connection to the symbolism of Rome
A dramatic fall of Cardinal red drapery across one shoulder links the dress back to the flowing folds of ancient Rome's clothes 

 Diaphanous gowns with fine embroidery are cinched at the waist by delicate gold belts

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