Intimacy and desire are often Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli’s key talking points when discussing their designs for Valentino. “It’s an intimate point of view,” said Chiuri during a preview of the fall line — another beautiful addition to their string of recent stunners — adding that she and her partner “wanted to capture women in a private moment.” Language like that brings to mind lingerie, which the designers don’t do, although a confident sensuality pulses through the dress silhouette they’ve singled out as their own: long slim sleeves, high neck, restrained A-line skirt, this time shown with girly trompe l’oeil patent T-straps layered with nude velvet for a bootie-pump hybrid. The look is highly specific and personal — you can tell a lot about the woman who wears these clothes.

On that note, it made sense that Chiuri and Piccioli chose portrait artists, specifically Dutch masters, as their main inspiration. Their mood board was covered with examples of captivating faces rendered by Dutch painters, classic and latter day, whose work conveyed a compelling sense of its subject. With that in mind, it was hard to miss the irony as a clash of photographers jousted for their “portraits” of Nicole Richie and Frank Ocean sitting front row at the show.

The designers sought to frame the face, focusing on the neckline of their signature dresses, shown at first as precise, A-line minis with prominent white collars done in exquisite leather and lace embroideries. From there, a procession of dresses and gowns drew attention to the neck and shoulders with an impressive range of treatments. A gorgeous red gown with a dramatic inverted pleat that fell from the bust to the floor had a stiff white shirt collar and shoulders, with a panel of sheer tulle separating the ivory from the crimson. It was grand yet minimal, likewise the China blue gown with a dramatic scoop neck. There was no shortage of variations on these styles, done in luxurious details and fabrics, such as leathers, lace, furs and blue-and-white embroideries inspired by Delft ceramics — in fact, the show would not have suffered from a few less looks, gorgeous as they all were.

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