Once upon a time, there was a Mighty Designer. He was a prince among his peers, as renowned for his personal elegance and lavish, tasteful lifestyle as he was for his lavish, tasteful clothing. His career was long and storied, his reputation as an arbiter of taste and quality was untarnished for more than four decades. Eventually, the Mighty Designer decided that he was tired of the day-to-day duties of being fashion royalty, and declared his intention to retire. The close of his career was marked by monumental celebrations, tearful reminiscences, and a spectacular final fashion show.
A Successor was duly named. The Successor was rapidly deemed unsuitable by the Mighty Designer and his partners. The Successor was summarily dismissed, amidst a small, dirty cloud of resentful dust and just-this-side-of-impolite verbage.
The Successors to the Successor, two of the Mighty Designer's protegé/underlings, were appointed. A fashion show occurred, everyone clapped politely, and the Mighty Designer was pleased. He was rumored to have tiny, tastefully glittering tears in his eyes at the end of the show.
My question, and it's a question that I'm sure a lot of people are going to ask, is why Mr. Valentino bothered to retire if all he wanted from his replacement was basically to clone the clothes he has been designing for 45 years. I understand the company is his creation, it bears his name, it's his legacy and his livelihood. But he left the company. He stepped down. He moved on.
Ummmmmm, not so much.
I loved Alessandra Fachinetti's collections for Valentino. I thought she was respectful of the Valentino ethos but was gently nudging the house forward. Apparently I was part of a very small group. Retailers complained vociferously that their customers would never buy this newfangled nonsense, and you know -- they were probably right to a certain extent. But the Valentino customer of the last forty years is not necessarily the customer of the future, and I can't help but wonder if they aren't cutting their own throats by steadfastly refusing to entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, there is not an endless supply of very well-financially-upholstered Ladies Who Lunch waiting in the wings to buy precious little evening suits and dainty chiffon blouses for the rest of eternity. Just because a designer is gone doesn't mean his or her house can't stay relevant (Lanvin, anyone? Chanel? Dior? YSL? All are extremely influential despite the fact that their namesakes are no longer with us), but relevance depends on change. This?
Is beautiful. But it's sure not change. That suit could have come from any Valentino collection from the last 20 years. Yes, it's lovely; yes, I'm sure the craftsmanship is peerless; no, it will never go out of style. (Which begs the question, of course, of whether or not it's in style.)
The new designers for Valentino are Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. They have worked for Valentino designing accessories for twelve years. (And they are good at it. For proof I give you Exhibit A and Exhibit B.) It's probably unfair to pass judgment yet, because this is their first collection, and they had to be nervous having watched how fast Fachinetti went down in flames by daring to have an idea or two of her own. But still...
This is pretty, pretty, pretty, but it's not especially inspiring.
All beautiful, none groundbreaking, some almost eerily familiar. There were really only two garments in this collection that made me sit up & think, "Okay!"
I still love that gorgeous Valentino red, and both of these dresses are a little sleeker, a little more modern than the rest of the show. But nothing that came down that runway made me as excited as this
from Fachinetti's first couture show for Valentino. When I saw those I thought, "A-HAH! This woman is going to save the House of Valentino!"
Goes to show what I know, I reckon.
You know what did make me go, "A-HAH!"?? These right here:
Yeah, buddy. That's what I'm talkin' about. It seems unlikely that Chiuri and Piccioli, having taken the reins of the entire house, are still doing the accessories. Which means that the Velentino shoe design bench is pretty deep, my friends, if even after their first string moves on they can bust out moves like this.
Feeling a little faint, aren't you?
With shoes like these, you could run around in your underduds and no one would notice. Too bad the clothes that went with them weren't as good. But ready-to-wear looms, so maybe things will look up then.
Still more couture is coming! Stay tuned!