Valentino: Themes and Variations – Valentino has always been one of my favorite designers. His exquisite designs are coveted and worn by young Hollywood and high society, as you can see on previous posts. On the occasion of his last couture collection, presented in Paris in the spring of 2008, this landmark book celebrates forty-five years of Valentino’s remarkable career. Published in association with a prestigious exhibition at the Museé des Arts Decoratifs’s famed costume department in Paris, this volume focuses on Valentino’s haute couture creations, through new photography, sketches, fabric samples, and commentary on the dresses by Valentino himself.
I always felt that Valentino brings the values of a lady, he seemed to intuitively understand how to make women look beautiful. His color palette was sure to make a woman look vibrant and alive: that sizzling Valentino red; pinks and corals; ice blue; black. There were dressmaker details – rosettes, pleats, and embroidery – that took a dress from being merely a dress to an exquisite piece of art. And never was the female figure obscured by extraneous bits and pieces.
The photos are stunning. The book has minimal text, which is entirely appropriate as the clothing speaks for itself. (For those of you who are not entirely familiar with Valentino, there is an interesting biography provided.) I also thought the designer’s work was organized in a very clever way, with pieces being featured in chapters entitled “Themes” (Ornamentation; Technique) and “Variations” (Line; Volume).
What struck me is how many of his designs from the 1950s and 60s look so current, proving that classic, feminine design never goes out of style. I also loved the vintage photos and advertisements which showed Valentino’s designs through the years. How fun to see the progression from the swinging 60s to the exotic vibe of the 1970s, the exuberance of the 1980s (I don’t care what anyone says- it was a great era for fashion!) to the minimalist 90s.
We have much to learn from the likes of Valentino. At the end of the day, it’s about details, craftsmanship, and timeless design. As Valentino said: “I think a couturier must establish his style and stick to it. The mistake of many couturiers is that they try to change their line with every collection. I change a little each time, but never too much, so as not to lose my identity.”
In addition, unprecedented photography by François Halard of Valentino’s last fittings and backstage of his runway show reveals Valentino’s private world for the first time. “Valentino On Valentino,” a chapter of first-person accounts of the designs of these iconic dresses, along with Valentino’s commentary on his fashion, will make this publication unique in the study of Valentino as a cultural and artistic icon.