Valentino: Master of Couture opens at Somerset House offering visitors a rare glimpse into the inner sanctum of Valentino’s world.
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“My private world is a simple world. I thank heaven for the life it has given me. I have a great appetite for splendour, but at the same time for simple tastes.” If there ever was a designer who exactly personified la dolce vita, it’s Valentino. For over fifty years he has been dressing the world’s most glamorous women according to his own vision of elegance, from royalty and Hollywood icons alike, earning him generations of Val’s gals; Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Babe Paley, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece.
The exhibition at Somerset House is staged in three parts. The first room offers an intimate insight of Valentino’s private life, delving into previously unseen memorabilia from his archive in Wideville, France. There are personal photographs, couture invitations and an array of sketches (even one on a piece of paper from the Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro) showing Valentino at work and play. The second part centres on the catwalk of Valentino’s 130 hand-crafted creations. In a reversal of roles each visitor takes the place of a model walking along a sixty-metre runway to view the audience all of whom are dressed in Valentino couture. As Valentino states, “each of these designs have a beautiful story… though outside the runway shows and events, these dresses have been rarely seen.” So one can wonder at the iconic black velvet and tulle evening gown worn by Julia Roberts when she won an Academy Award in 2001, or Jackie Onassis’s wedding dress from Valentino’s 1968 White Collection. The final part of the exhibition takes us behind the seams, in the form of his atelier, a series of specially made films detail the artistry and intricacy of the craftsmanship of Valentino couture. As Valentino, the last Emperor reaffirms in this exhibition, he came, he saw, he conquered.
Valentino: Master of Couture is open at Somerset House from 29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013.
Text: Delilah Khomo