We forget what goes into building a collection. Beyond the designer and where they came from, the models they select and the celebrities that they plant among the critics and buyers in their front row, there is an army of behind-the-scenes talent: seamstresses, pattern makers, embroiderers and assistants that exact the silhouettes and the details that define them until they are not just ready, but perfect. Precise. Like a ballet dancer’s plié. It didn’t always look like that. The dancer broke her feet getting there.
Valentino was like an homage to that. At first, it felt like a day in the life of a dancer. The opening looks evinced a sense of urgency: overcoats, trench coats, combat boots, slip dresses paired with knit turtlenecks. There were ballet slippers too, making it clear following Miu Miu’s box office hit from Spring that they are very much back.
The dark looks became nude looks; these seemed like training time — body suits and ethereal dresses, lightweight skirts and more of those flats. There was a great restraint employed here, like that of a dancer’s, but made to mirror the exactness with which the designers at Valentino have calculated this collection. They could let it all out, they’ve shown us that before. Embroidery! Embellishment! Fringe! Fabrics pulled from the g-dang ceiling at the Vatican. But that’s not the point. That’s not the message.
Training time became an official dance. Specifically, for me, with the velvet numbers: a turtleneck trapeze dress rendered in mustard velvet, one more as a tank top, a wrap version in green. Here the shoes became higher and more structured. In the closing scenes, the form of act one and fit of acts two and three walked side by side, one after another as if to emblematize the vicissitudes of an artist’s process.
And that’s always what a collection — any creative pursuit, really — is, no? The physical embodiment of a curiosity, a tension, sometimes a struggle that then turns into a process, layers of challenge and very hard handy work that precede the fanfare of a finish line, the fame and glory we get to observe and audit, often neglecting, whether pleased or disappointed, the manifold mechanisms, human and otherwise, that it took to get there.
Photographs via Vogue Runway.