La Vie en Rose and La Dolce Vita have the same conceptual meaning. The sweet life, the good life, the life in pink. But Valentino Garavani, often known simply as Valentino, the legendary fashion designer and master couturier who founded his eponymous fashion house in Rome in the late 1950s and established since an illustrious career designing for the world’s most glamorous women, from royalty to Hollywood icons, understand this kind of life in another signature color : The Valentino Red.
From his start designing dresses, Valentino and long-time partner Giancarlo Giammetti built the Valentino brand into an international empire, now one of the most iconic fashion brands in the world.Throughout his career Valentino has been awarded the highest recognitions and achievements, including Italy’s highest distinction, Cavalier di Gran Croce, and France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, in addition to numerous awards in the fashion industry. Valentino retired from his career in fashion in 2008, though he continues to create and follow his passions.
Featuring dresses from the couture catwalk and red carpet, as well as designs commissioned by private clients, this exhibition brings together a comprehensive collection of couture, much of which has never been seen outside the Valentino atelier. The exhibition will give visitors a rare glimpse behind the closed doors of Valentino’s world, allowing them to experience the thrill of walking the runway and reveal Valentino’s craftsmanship.
“Each of these designs have a beautiful story,” says Valentino. “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.”
Known for his long-standing relationships with the world’s most glamorous women, Valentino has designed for princesses, first ladies and Hollywood icons. As a result, exhibition highlights will include the vintage dress worn by Julia Roberts when she won an Academy Award in 2001, Jackie Onassis’s wedding dress from Valentino’s 1968 White Collection and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece’s pearl-encrusted ivory silk wedding gown, which the New York socialite wore to marry Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece in 1995.( This one, a pure masterpiece)
The exhibition design for Valentino: Master of Couture has been created specially for Somerset House by internationally renowned design team Kinmonth Monfreda, long time collaborators of Valentino, and realised in collaboration with Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti. The exhibition has been curated by Alistair O’Neill for Somerset House with Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda.
The exhibition has been a unique experience and was divided as follows:
The first room delves into the unique world of Valentino featuring previously unseen personal photographs, couture invitations and images of Valentino at work and play from his personal archive in Wideville, France.
For Valentino: Master of Couture, Somerset House’s Embankment Galleries will be transformed into a glamorous couture catwalk. In a clever reversal of roles each visitor takes the place of the model walking along a sixty-metre runway to view the ‘audience’, all of whom will be dressed in Valentino Couture. Evening gowns, dresses, trouser suits, minis, capes and kaftans, the catwalk will take visitors on a journey through fashion from the 1950s to today. The garments will be grouped by themes rather than chronologically, for example tones of black and white, volume and Valentino red. They will be on open display, so the craftsmanship is clearly visible. The catwalk display will culminate in recent dresses by the current house of Valentino.
The Atelier and les petits mains
Descending the stairs from the catwalk, visitors will see the exquisite wedding dress of Princess Marie-Chantal made with ten different kinds of lace. Beyond this will be a room dedicated to Valentino’s current passion, the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum, which will allow visitors to explore Valentino’s legacy even further through interactive and multi media content.
In the final room, visitors will be able to see behind the scenes at the atelier through a series of specially made films that show in minute detail the artistry of the couture techniques that go into making a Valentino gown. This includes the technique ofbudellini, which is unique to Valentino. Hundreds of hours of work go into each Couture gown made in the Valentino atelier.
Gwyn Miles, Director of Somerset House said: “We are delighted to welcome Valentino to Somerset House and show off his beautiful designs in such a spectacular way. Somerset House will be the ultimate destination for fashion and glamour this winter. Following on from London Fashion Week, visitors will have the chance to see fashion photographer Tim Walker’s new exhibition Story Teller and Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour as well as Skate at Somerset House – the original and most glamorous open-air ice-rink in London.”
I went once, and will come back a few more times, just to see the details that my eyes captured but my memory did not keep for long enough. Please go!!!!!
Dates: 29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013
Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm Daily. Late night openings on Thursdays until 9pm
Address: Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Admission: £12.50, Concessions £9
Transport: Nearest Underground Stations – Temple, Embankment, Charing Cross
Further Information: www.somersethouse.org.uk
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