Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Valentino : Themes and Variations

Valentino has always been one of my favorite designers. To me, he is one of only a few designers who creates pretty clothing. And no, pretty is not a dirty word. Oh sure there are those fashion mavens who prefer clothing that is esoteric, architectural, conceptual, and the like. And yes, sometimes that clothing can be interesting to look at. But at the end of the day, don't women want to look beautiful and feminine?

I always felt that Valentino put his clients first; he seemed to intuitively understand how to make them look their best. His color palette was sure to make a woman look vibrant and alive: that sizzling Valentino red; pinks and corals; ice blue; black. There were dressmaker details- rosettes, pleats, and embroidery- that took a dress from being merely a dress to an exquisite piece of art. And never was the female figure obscured by extraneous bits and pieces.

I was excited to get a sneak peek at the new Rizzoli publication
Valentino: Themes and Variations by Pamela Golbin (Rizzoli; publication date September 9, 2008). The designer, who took his final runway bow earlier this year, is certainly deserving of this lavish treatment of his work and his career. First, the photos are stunning- but with those beautiful dresses and ensembles, how could they not be? The book has minimal text, which is entirely appropriate as the clothing speaks for itself. (For those of you who are not entirely familiar with Valentino, there is an interesting biography provided.) I also thought the designer's work was organized in a very clever way, with pieces being featured in chapters entitled "Themes" (Ornamentation; Technique) and "Variations" (Line; Volume).

What struck me is how many of his designs from the 1950s and 60s look so current, proving that classic, feminine design never goes out of style. I also loved the vintage photos and advertisements which showed Valentino's designs through the years. How fun to see the progression from the swinging 60s to the exotic vibe of the 1970s, the exuberance of the 1980s (I don't care what anyone says- it was a great era for fashion!) to the minimalist 90s.

So why should we devotees of interior design discuss a fashion designer? Because, we have much to learn from the likes of Valentino. At the end of the day, it's about details, craftsmanship, and timeless design. Had Valentino's career been marked by tricks and trends, I don't think he would have survived in the fickle world of fashion for as long as he did. As Valentino said: "I think a couturier must establish his style and stick to it. The mistake of many couturiers is that they try to change their line with every collection. I change a little each time, but never too much, so as not to lose my identity." Perhaps this sentiment might apply to interior design too?

(Just to prove that Valentino's style is not limited to his couture creations, I'll post some images from his London home tomorrow.)

Now, for the important part.... the clothes!

Behind the scenes preparation for Valentino's last collection, January 2008 Paris.

Satin evening gowns with a delft print from Valentino's Fall/Winter 1968 collection. (Photographer was Henry Clarke)

Left: Giraffe print ensemble from Spring/Summer 1966; at right Fall/Winter 1967.

This dress, "Fiesta", was from Valentino's 1959 collection. I'd jump at the chance to wear this dress today- minus the gloves, though.

This orange silk jacket and trousers were designed in 1969. It still looks rather glamorous almost forty years later.

Look at the amazing detail and workmanship of this dress' bodice. Woven silk voile and iridescent sequins in a polychrome marble mosaic motif (Fall/Winter 1990)

You see, the love of coral has been around for a long time. This silk serge gown with handpainted coral motif is from the Spring/Summer 1968 collection. (Photographer Ruven Afanador)

OK, so the dresses and the hair circa 1968 look a tad dated. But that interior certainly doesn't. I also think Marisa Berenson looks fantastic in this photo. (Photographer Henry Clarke)

An ad campaign from Fall/Winter 2007. While Valentino's clothes certainly don't need any help from the model's surroundings, it certainly enhances the dress, don't you think?

A young Valentino in his salon at 54 Via Gregoriana, Rome . This photo makes me want a studio just like this... perhaps the Peak of Chic salon of blog writing?

Valentino surrounded by his models in the courtyard of the Palazzo Mignanelli (where Valentino's fashion house resides), c. 2000. Note the models are dressed in his signature shade of Valentino red.

(All images from Valentino: Themes and Variations by Pamela Golbin. Rizzoli publisher.)


  1. If I'm not mistaken, that black and white interior is the Rome apartment of the painter Cy Twombley. Or at least awfully like. Hasn't dated, as you say.
    (see Vogue's Book of Houses etc c 1968)

  2. Toby- Now that you mention it, I really think you are correct. Unfortunately, the book did not mention the setting of this photo. It's really pretty fabulous.

  3. I can't wait for this one!

  4. Breathtakingly beautiful, well detailed and feminine. I liked your comparison of his work to Interior Design.

  5. My favorite designer :-) He knew the importance of the color red, in fashion and in interiors!

  6. I love the two dresses that look like "I Married Adventure" and the sequal.

  7. Great post!! Love him!!

  8. Anonymous8:13 PM

    I love his designs. I've seen photos of his homes in InStyle magazine over the years and his homes are just as gorgeous as his clothing designs. Thanks for blogging about this book. I'll be sure to get it as soon as it comes out.

  9. Fantastic - I think I'll ask Santa for this! Love the Giraffe print from the '60s. And of course all the interiors are wonderful...

  10. Great post. So wonderful to see all these great images...
    We added the piece as a link;
    Thank you