It is hard to believe that this exhibition marks Valentino's 50th anniversary. The first shop opened in 1959 in Via Condotti, Roma, and to this day it has managed to stay as one of the most influential, respected and coveted maisons in the fashion circle. In my opinion, it is the history and tradition behind the brand that make it special. Valentino was always interested in femininity, in enhancing women's beauty and that is reflected throughout its history: powerful women like Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy and Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway by Valentino. And of course, Greece's princess Marie-Chantal on the day of her wedding.
The exhibition firstly showed in the downstairs gallery a display of the designer's personal items from couture invitations to letters from Meryl Streep and Anna Wintour to photographs of Valentino in holidays and at work. Hung high on the wall there is a giant rose (one of the many symbols of the maison, along with the colour red and bows), plain white with proyection over it; you can see it infold into a beautiful red rose or loose its petals. The upstairs gallery is literally a catwalk, filled with 130 couture pieces: gowns, jackets capes and cocktail dresses organized by colour. The mannequins are painted in different colours, each representing the decade in which the garment was created. Beige empty chairs with hand written name cards create an invisible front row. And if you didn't have enough with the beaded, ruffled, delicate, intricate couture, at the end of the catwalk and down the stairs you find the ivory wedding gown of Marie-Chantal, with its lace veil that can be considered a piece of art on its own.
However, apart from the visual beauty of all the clothes, what I found most interesting was the virtual museum showing a series of films starring "Le Ragazze di Valentino" (Valentino's Girls), seamstresses cutting and assembling lace bodices or creating ruffles and flowers, couture techniques that Valentino learned at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. It is unbelievable the amount of work that goes into creating a textile flower, or a beaded pattern, it is truly an artistry.
And after this Couture overdose, it was only fitting to go to Paul (Fench Patisserie) to have tea and talk about it!