Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Valentino Haute Couture F/W 2012: Catholic Gilt

For starters, this show had all the pep of a Requiem Mass. The whole cast of characters that pack the hi/lo rafters of Catholicism were represented. Sinners, Saints and a convent-full of Nuns walked a raised black wooden runway that was more plank than catwalk. Like a crowded and stuffy baroque chapel, the setting was claustrophobic and dour. My first 3 years of school were at St. Mary's in Ayer, Mass. and I remember all too well just how severe everything and everyone was. Even then I was the odd man out wanting badly to be an alter boy. It didn't matter that the frankincense and myrrh that was smoking up the place during mass was so suffocating I couldn't breathe. I so wanted to wear the 2-tiered capelet and gown while processing behind the priest down that endless runway, I mean aisle, but never got the chance because I was Protestant. (another lost opportunity at fabu-ness)

Bad Girl

Maybe that's where my love affair with Valentino stems from. That little ensemble was eerily like the double dirndl skirts that were the theme of a collection he did for Fall back in 1979, I believe, to a soundtrack by Stanley Clarke. That show had pep in spades. This one was different. Chiuri and Piccioli dispensed with red in exchange for navy until very late in the show. It was a rich dark statement that had more bite than the clothes.
Borgia Priestess
(lovely)Couture Hair shirt
This collection opened with Sinners. A group of scantily-clad models came out in black chiffon layers with artfully placed silk charmeuse patches over breasts and nether regions. The work was beautifully executed but strange in its extreme peek-a-boo-ness. It felt forced and oddly at odds with the house's DNA; kind of like a case of mutated and/or missing chromosomes. That schism was quickly followed by a bevy of Nuns. Actually, I found these dresses and gowns the most pure and satisfying of all. Just clean, clear, elegantly spare columns in dark navy, mostly, with simple necklines and long sleeves. Jumpsuits were introduced into the conversation giving the proceedings a retro 70's vibe. They spare gowns in crepe and charmeuse were impressive in that there's no place to hide a lack of technique with overbearing layers of ruffles or truckloads of crystals. Their timelessness was appropriate when you think of couture as treasure for the ages.

The Sacrifice

The Tree of Life
Then came Halstonettes that were simply confusing. Cheesy beaded cardigans over beaded jumpsuits and charmeuse numbers. They were sort of the Ghosts of Good Girls Gone Bad. It was the brocades in stiff, unrepentant radzimir, I think, that was totally ecclesiastical. In hard as nails capes and severe little cocktail dresses they marched down that plank. Though the motifs were vegetation and exotic fruits, they felt like costumes for a Borgia. They were the couture equivalent of hair shirts. The music was curious in that it starts with strings ascending and never resolving  forbodingly then shifting to Brahms giving the whole affair a self consciousness that you could cut with a hacksaw. A tiny window of hope emerged with a few exquisite pieces that displayed a motif of the Tree of Life; first in a rich embroidery on a cape and then in soft hand painted pastels on chiffon. Those exits were heaven sent. Chiffon confections with miles and miles of ruffles rounded out the show in typical Valentino Garavani style, blood red in meters and meters of plisse chiffon. Some other looks in re-embroidered lace cut as jumpsuits with a soupcon of sable trim at the neck were symbolic of the religious zealot, the Holy Wino. The last dress in the collection in rich navy with a cut out pattern down the front and back I'd have to call the Sacrifice....

Overall, the service felt very labored, long, and without much charm, insouciance or wit. Ultimately, it was just another day at Mass.

1 comment:

spirou said...

It was "le rouge e let noir "of Stendhal no ?
Wrong DJ, bad transitions, I guess it kept them awake ! A girl at 1:08 definitely looked possessed by something scary ! Did not help that they all looked like Popeye's girlfriend Olive oil.
I saw some Lacroix in there at 9:52 and some MacQueen too at 12:47. All and all it is very Jane Eyre, Withering heights,with some Borgia ! It will sell well.