Rome — Italy’s original fashion capital, where couture clients of yore resided, the Alta Roma still shows and Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli live and work. “We take a lot of inspiration from Rome,” said Chiuri during a preview. “In some ways, our idea of it is not so beautiful. But for us, the city and fashion are about dreams.”
Earlier this year, Chiuri and Piccioli saw an exhibition of work by Roman Arturo Ghergo, known for his portraits in the Forties, his subjects ranging from Marella Agnelli to the actresses of Cinecitta to women on the street. Ghergo’s lens cast the stars and civilians in the same glamorous light. The designers were struck by the notion of a woman’s identity and the concept of personal beauty. A recent Cindy Sherman show also came to mind, thankfully not her strange impersonations, but Sherman’s mastery of self-representation. You can choose who you want to be. The Valentino woman of spring chose to be nothing short of stunning.
There’s a chaste beauty to the A-line silhouettes, descended from traditional Roman couture, that have become the house standard in Chiuri and Piccioli’s hands. Dresses and gowns — plus a few jackets, shorts and trenches — were updated in exquisite treatments from Valentino couture ateliers, including dense, white cotton lace that was painted with a delicate dandelion motif; thick guipure, snakeskin pleating and some breathtaking beaded embroidery on a black silk wrap dress. Slipdresses — both long and short, some done in solids spliced with slim vertical slits, others as slinky chemises — pushed a refined sensuality. It’s also nice to see designers who have nothing against an evening gown with sleeves.
It is fair to wonder if it’s time Chiuri and Piccioli expanded their breadth, perhaps playing with volume or sportswear. It’s also hard to argue with the momentum they’ve built not only with highly desirable and wearable clothes, but knockout accessories, too. The Rockstud shoe series has been ubiquitous on the feet of fashion week foot soldiers. Next season, it will be the turn of spring’s Cinderella slippers.