Dim nightclub lighting and a dirgelike soundtrack set an uncharacteristically downbeat tone at Valentino and seemed an odd foil to the ladylike clothes on parade. These were strongest when they played with themes from the house’s Spring couture collection and showcased the extraordinary detailing of which even Valentino’s ready-to-wear workrooms are capable.
There was no shortage of stellar effects. Concentric circles of mink on the bishop sleeve of a shapely jacket suggested an archery target. An evening bodice, worn over a sunburst-pleated satin gown in the designer’s brilliant fetish red, bristled with singly mounted ostrich fronds. Bead embroidery was swagged across cocktail dresses to mimic lavish Edwardian necklaces. And there were plenty of the insouciant gestures that Valentino’s well-heeled customers relish, from the frothy ivory lace-and-chiffon lingerie blouses worn with black cocktail skirts to the marled knit cardigan coat fashioned for a Bloomsbury beauty and shrugged over bohemian 30s beads. He also caught something of the 1940s spirit that has infused this season’s war-menaced collections. But pleated flippy skirts and neat hourglass jackets, swirled with curlicues of padded satin, evoked a young Duchess of Windsor rather than the sexed-up chanteuse singing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” that some other designers have taken as their muse.
As always, Valentino seemed to have an eye on Oscar’s red carpet, sending out siren gowns lavished with pretty Lalique-esque dragonfly embroideries and a showgirl-style flapper costume drenched in lilac bugle beads. It is difficult, however, to imagine where his diva is heading in an overscale chiffon sweater thickly banded with Mongolian lamba fondue party in Saint Moritz, perhaps? Then again, if anyone knows the quirks of those lunching ladies, it is Valentino.