Valentino: “Master of Couture” Exhibit | Somerset House

December 13, 2012

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It seems as though the fashion world just celebrated Valentino Garavani’s 45th anniversary (in 2007) in which he designed his final runway couture collection and organized a retrospective exhibit of his work at the Ara Pacis Museum – which was all chronicled in the 2008 documentary “The Last Emperor”. Fast forward five years and here the world is again to celebrate the “Master of Couture” with yet another retrospective exhibit, with the same title, this time in London at Somerset House.  As of Nov 29th, the exhibit expertly explores the ultra glam haute couture world that the famous Italian designer helped to created over half a century ago.

Anyone who remotely knows me, is well aware of the fact that I LOVE watching behind-the-scenes footage or getting exclusive access to all things fashion…and this retrospective uses personal photographs and film to give the exhibit patrons exclusive access inside the atelier – for example some intricate couture techniques that were part of the hand crafted process which created some iconic looks for celebs like Grace Kelly and Julia Roberts, natch! Honestly, some of these couture designs housed in Somerset House were even commissioned by private clients, meaning quite a few of the pieces have never seen the light of day outside the Valentino atelier – GASP!

Valentino A/W 1992 Black Velvet Evening Dress worn by Julia Roberts when she won her Oscar

Valentino and Natalia Vodianova – 2012 photo by Cathleen Naundorf

Left: Evening Gown in silver grey silk, S/S 1995
Right: Ivory Painted Evening Gown, S/S 1998

Left: Boldani-Style Chiffon White Evening Dress, S/S 2005
Right: Valentino Red Taffeta Evening Gown, A/W 2002

The design team Kinmonth Monfreda built and co-curated the exhibit and started by displaying glass cabinets containing personal items from Valentino’s Wideville, France archives such as images of the designer on holiday with his partner Giancarlo Giammetti and their half dozen pugs, at work and couture invitations from previous shows. The upstairs gallery boasts a 200 ft catwalk where each visitor can stroll it’s length and view over 100 cocktail dresses, capes, gowns and jackets draped over white mannequins amongst the audience chairs. It is said that the retired couturier thinks of his gowns like daughters which should make Valentino a proud Papa after seeing 130 of his couture creations installed in the Embarkment Galleries. The collection also includes three gowns from the 2011 and 2012 collections by the House’s current designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccoli.

Valentino and Natalia Vodianova at Musee Nissim de Camodo in Paris, 2011 by Kevin Tachman

The designer with models wearing dresses in the iconic Valentino red, 2007

Gowns amongst audience chairs off the 200 ft runway

Vintage gowns from Valentino’s archives

Personal artifacts; photos, show invitations and letters have been collected into a commemorative exhibition book and cataloge

The piece de resistance or grand finale of the entire exhibit is the solitary and beautifully lit ivory, silk wedding dress of Greece’s Princess Marie-Chantal from her 1995 wedding, which was assembled and embellished by 25 seamstresses aka basically a tiny village.

A small virtual museum holding a series of films depicting “Le Ragazze di Valentino” (Valentino’s Girls), cutting and assembling lace bodices and demonstrating couture techniques learned at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.

Exhibit designers Kinmonth and Monfreda commissioned videos of the seamstresses prepping sections of dresses, utilizing different techniques.

Each of these designs have a beautiful story, the atelier crafted each so diligently by hand, taking hours, sometimes days to complete. The details are incredibly intricate, though outside the runway shows and events, the dresses have rarely been seen, so to be able to showcase these designs at Somerset House, where they can be seen in great detail by the public, is very unique” – Valentino.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for the retrospective exhibit that took two years to create to commemorate the work of the world’s most celebrated couturier…

Exhibits runs from November 29th 2012 – March 3rd 2013 at the Somerset House Strand, London. Embankment Galleries, West Wing. So if you are not living in London, you still have time to book a round-trip flight on British Airways to check out the exhibit for yourself. Tickets prices are £12.50/£9 concessions. For more information click Here



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