Posts Tagged ‘London. London College of Fashion’

Haute Couture.Valentino

 Back in the day, when I was a student at the London College of Fashion, I attended fashion and couture shows virtually every week as part of the course.  Sitting amongst the world’s fashion press at everything from Norman Hartnell to the Prêt a Porter; Jean Muir to the Top Shop Collection, we were expected to take notes and file reports on each show, to get us practising different writing styles. As I had decided fairly early on that fashion writing was something I definitely would not be doing, it all seemed pretty irrelevant to me; I couldn’t get to grips with the insincerity of the industry as I saw it then.  If anyone who has seen The BBC’s comedy show, ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ thinks its portrayal is over the top, I can assure you it isn’t – I have known people exactly like the two main characters, Edina and Patsy.

So when a friend suggested that we meet at Somerset House to view the Valentino exhibition, I went expecting to be underwhelmed. We didn’t book which was foolish as we arrived in the middle of London Fashion Week. A biting north wind was rushing along the Thames at a rate of knots and the queue, huddled against the brickwork, wasn’t. In spite of being British, I’m not good at queuing and neither, fortunately, is my friend. Attempting to retire to Tom’s Deli in the courtyard proved fruitless – we didn’t have the required passes for Fashion Week. Things were going from bad to worse.

While we were curmudgeonly bemoaning our bad luck and ignoring the fact that it was down to bad planning, we were approached by security who suggested we joined a much shorter queue to buy timed tickets for later in the day. Marvellous! This achieved we were then ushered to the foyer where Tom’s Deli was selling cardboard-cup coffee and flapjacks. All was not lost and we settled down for a catch up as we waited our turn to see the show.

Now for a bit of fashion writing:-

The exhibition is a celebration of the life and works of Valentino who, in 1959, at the age of twenty-seven,  returned to Rome from the couture salons of Paris, (notably Guy Laroche) and founded his now iconic label. In 1965, together with his partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, he opened his fashion house on the Via Condotti in Rome. He remained at the helm of his empire until his retirement in 2007.

 He designed and dressed everybody who is anybody – from Jackie Onassis and Grace Kelly, Princess Diana and Julia Roberts to Gwyneth Paltrow and Lady Gaga.

The first part of the exhibition concentrates on Valentino’s private archive of correspondence with the glitterati – letters of thanks from Vogue editor Anna Wintour; signed photographs of Elizabeth Taylor; photographs of Valentino with Meryl Streep and Ann Hathaway on the set of The Devil Wears Prada; a Christmas card from Prince Charles. After this very personal glimpse into his life, we go upstairs to tread the catwalk between 130 seated and standing mannequins clothed in the most exquisite Valentino couture. The fabrics and workmanship that go into creating these works of art is breath-taking; each one is sewn by hand by one of Valentino’s ‘ragazza’s’ (girls).   The exhibition then takes you through the process of their creation, demonstrating on film the painstaking work of the seamstresses and showing samples of work in various stages of completion.

So, there we have it: I was overwhelmed and I did appreciate it – couture is just another art form, after all. That just didn’t occur to me before.

Something else I didn’t appreciate when I was younger: the necessity to moisturise one’s neck.

Read Full Post »