Valentino’s final touch

For the 50th anniversary of the House of Valentino, the renowned Italian couturier reappeared at Somerset House in London with an exhibition celebrating his life and displaying the know-how of his ateliers.
Curated by Alistair O’Neill, Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda, the first part of the exhibition presents personal documents that belonged to Mr Garavani and to his life partner Giancarlo Giammeti, including messages from Anna Wintour, Donatella Versace, Manolo Blahnik and many other important figures within the fashion circle. Visitors then find themselves walking on a 52 meter long catwalk surrounded by 137 Valentino gowns, which were crafted with exceptional techniques – using special materials such as organza, cady or gazar – and have been worn by personalities such as Jacqueline Onassis, Julia Roberts and Diana Vreeland.
Haute couture features highly specialized hand-made techniques. Training in Paris and drawing inspiration from Rome, Valentino along with his ateliers have always been looked up to for their know-how in haute couture. Hence the last part of the exhibition was put together in honour of the expertise and unique work of “le ragazze” (the girls), the skilled seamstresses who create the splendid gowns designed by Valentino. To start with, this installation showcases ten examples of specialized haute couture techniques: Budellini, Drappeggio, Incrostazioni, Nervature, Rose, Rose di Volant, Tappetodi Ruches, Volant a Coni, Pieghe Voltate and Pagine; the last one being a technique that is unique to the Valentino atelier and has been used by the fashion house since 1987. In addition, four screens show several clips from “Le ragazze di Valentino”, a film directed by Antonio Monfreda and Giorgio Horn which illustrates the high level of work behind each creation of the Valentino ateliers. Finally, the last part depicts the utmost ability of the seamstresses employed by the Valentino Fashion House: the wedding dress of HRH Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, which she wore in July 1995 to marry HRH Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece. Twenty-five seamstresses worked for four months to create the ivory silk bridal gown encrusted with pearls, which was made of twelve kinds of laces and a 4.5 meter train.
Bearing in mind this legacy, it is no wonder Valentino sounded so assertive when he claimed in 2008, just before his retiring from the fashion industry: “Après moi, le déluge” (“ After me, the Flood” ), which was inspired by a famous quote by Louis XV. Ultimately, four years following his official retirement, Valentino is still flooding the world with beautiful dresses, but also raising awareness and educating the public about the know-how and the unique expertise that haute couture requires.