First steps on a couture runway are daunting for any young designer, especially if she's following a master like Valentino. Alessandra Facchinetti carried it off with quiet grace and a point of view that promises to bring a breath of fresh air to the house. "I researched embroidery, looked at van Dyck and contemporary paper sculpture," she said. "I was looking for a strong way to interpret romance, but without the usual sweetness."
While maintaining respect for Valentino's oeuvre of pristine lunch suits, flowery embroidery, and red dresses, she managed to express her own flair for making chiffon flow and flutter in an immaculately wispy way. The van Dyck reference gave her the idea for playing with lace in pale wool embroideries, laser-filigree cuffs, and buttonsall elements that contributed to her redrawing of the outlines of Valentino's classic suitings with curved, slightly space-age volumes. If there was a glitch, it lay in some of the overloaded embroideries made with knotted skeins of wool, minute silver plastic cogs, and tiny hemispherical domes of georgette and metal. (Understandable, though, because which designer wouldn't let the thrill of experimenting with the capabilities of Valentino's in-house sewing experts go to her head?) The result was too heavy when cut into some of her curviform suits, and the overembellishment similarly weighed down a hopsack strapless evening gown.
What made that instantly forgivable, though, were the moments when Facchinetti lightened up her designs with a waft of chiffon. There is something incredibly refined in her choices of barely-there tints of ivory, nude, eau de nil, dusty pink, and lilac, and in her finishes: minuscule rolled hems on trumpet sleeves, petal-like ruffles fluttering in the small of a back, and flyaway trains. As fragile as these might seem, they're a signature to build on, and one that Mr. Valentino, should he inspect this collection from afar, might feel rather happy to behold.