Four months ago, when I visited Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri at the Valentino palazzo (where else?) in Rome, the desks in their shared office were piled high with books on Africa. They’ve been busy in the interim, running traditional Massai beading, feathers and Kikuyu textiles through the ateliers of their Roman HQ, where the unparalleled light touch of their seamstresses turned them into delicate embellishments with an unmistakably Italian embrace of the uxorious.
What is so exceptional about this duo is their ability to deliver both maximum embellishment and austere minimalism with equal aplomb. Sometimes a dress bears the rigour of both disciplines simultaneously. The collection developed in real time on the catwalk: monastic plain kaftan shapes, some with pintuck folds, soon gave way to similar silhouettes with tribal and waxed prints. Then came feathers, chiffon inserts, beading, studded leather and mesh pleats or bands of coloured suede.
Dress: wedding dresses
Valentino is now one of perhaps five houses working today where the designer’s vision and the executed workmanship work in perfectly synchronized harmony. The results are breathtaking yet always wearable.
Some might bridle at what they see as cultural appropriation – mainly white models with cornrows and voodoo jewellery – and a few in the audience did. Most accepted it as cultural celebration.
As models in their dark, floaty plain dresses drifted amongst more embellished pieces, the Out of Africa score soared over African drumbeats. Corny but oh so plangent, it was as if the ghost of Karen Blixen (what a glamazon she was in her day) was superimposed with images of the Kikuyu: one of the most beautiful collections of the season.
Also Read sheinbridal a-line wedding dresses