Valentino, Master of Couture at Somerset House

Thursday 31 January 2013

Along with the rest of CreateVoice, I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Valentino: Master of Couture  exhibition at Somerset House, led by one of the curators himself, Alistair O'Neill. It was amazing to see so many Valentino creations in one place, and especially to see the exhibition from a curatorial aspect - I particularly appreciated the thematic arrangement of the catwalk pieces. Instead of being arranged by season, garments were categorised by theme, showing off recurring motifs not through season, but the entirety of Valentino's five decade career in couture. So as not to make era irrelevant, the mannequins are colour coded. 

As amazing as the catwalk was, the showstopper for me had to be Marie-Chantal of Greece's wedding dress (shown above). Silk, lace, pearls, this dress has the lot. It's not personally to my taste, but the dress is just so beautiful it's impossible not to appreciate it, especially considering the amount of effort that went into making it. Alistair told us at this point that it took a team of twenty five of the most highly trained seamstresses over four months to make it, using twelve types of lace, at a cost of around £350,000. He described the curatorial decision to have it alone as a way of showing this dress as one of the 'ultimate' couture dresses in terms of craftmanship and beauty. 

Despite loving the entirety of the exhibition and its curation, my favourite part of the exhibition was the last part - techniques. Watching films the techniques on show being hand-stitched by seamstresses in the atelier really emphasises couture's importance as an art form, involving serious labour and skill - something that Alistair explained the curators wanted the exhibition to convey. I also loved the little touches like the inclusion of swatches of the techniques and the note of the season they were first used in Valentino's collections. My only disappointment was that I didn't see much of my favourite Valentino combination, scarlet red and lace (which I wrote about extensively here!). The exhibition is beautiful and definitely worth a visit.

Valentino: Master of Couture is on at Somerset House until 2nd March.

(Alistair also reminded us that the next exhibition at Somerset House is about the wardrobe of Isabella Blow, buddy to one of my favourite designers, Alexander McQueen. Should be good!)

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