Guests entering the Valentino show were greeted by colorful and wonderfully surreal clips from the Fifties film “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” by Kenneth Anger. Couched within such a bizarre (and kinky) setting — one saw glimpses of a blue-faced man and Anaïs Nin — the mind reeled as to where Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli would take their girl for fall.
The connection, if any, was not apparent as Chiuri and Piccioli worked a rather feminine mood more in line with last spring’s fragile fairy-tale outing than the recent couture foray into edgy, desperately sexy turf. It was a move in the right direction, while infusing the label with a younger attitude. From the start, things looked promising. They opened with a spare white dress with tiered, scalloped hems, utterly precise and controlled — and perfectly in step with the restrained tack seen elsewhere this season. And when they rendered the season’s core ruffle motif with a similarly light hand, the results were lovely, too — the simple LBD with gathers to one side or the crisp khaki jacket with sculpted ruffles and floral appliqués. But, at times, the flourishes felt forced — cascading across necklines, jutting out from shoulders, major flounce-work on hip — and repetitive when served up in myriad ways, including ruffled leather.
By night, softened up in chiffons and silks, the ruffles worked better — in tight tiers on dresses or seductively winding around the body, as in one standout red gown. The lace moments — gorgeously patchworked into sheer blouses and dresses — were similarly romantic in an airy, buoyant manner. Chiuri and Piccioli still need to fine-tune the delicate balance between honoring the house codes and pushing them forward to stay relevant, but fall was a signal that they’re accomplished enough to do so.