Valentino: Master of Couture

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Valentino with models, 2007 © Lorenzo Agius @

Somerset house has opened its doors for an exclusive retrospective look at Valentino’s designs from the 29th November 2012 to the 3rd March 2013. After years of impressing the fashion industry with his elegant and glamorous creations, Valentino has been dubbed the Master of Couture.

Valentino grew up in northern Italy and later moved to Paris to pursue his interest in fashion. After studying and completing many apprenticeships Valentino moved to Rome and opened his first fashion house.  Since launching his first designs Valentino has gone from strength to strength and stunned the fashion industry with every new collection, both couture and ready-to-wear.  In 2007 Valentino announced his retirement from fashion and he presented his last haute couture show in the Musée Rodin in Paris in January 2008.

This exhibition is the first to showcase Valentino’s work to this degree in the UK, it is an extensive collection with highlights including the world famous wedding dress that Jackie Kennedy wore to marry Aristotle Onassis in 1968.  Valentino’s designs have been worn by great personalities around the world including Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Valentino Garavani and Natalia Vodianova, 2012 © Cathleen Naundorf

The opening of the exhibition was well attended as fashion minded guests, including Alexa Chung, Edie Campbell and Julia Restoin Roitfeld, flocked to see the dazzling collection of designs from his famous red carpet designs to his classic gowns. The intimate exhibition includes couture designs commissioned by private clients over the years, many of which have never been seen beyond the Valentino Atelier before.

The exhibition space was designed by long time collaborators Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda, the pair have worked with Valentino many times in the past and for the exhibition they have created a glimpse of Valentino’s world. One touch the creative pair have added is to vary the shade of the mannequins from mint green to violet, the colour changes nod to the corresponding decades.

The showcase includes over 130 of Valentino’s pristine designs and is divided into three sections. Visitors will make their way through, starting with a private view of Valentino’s world with glimpses of his personal archive; next visitors will walk a 60 metre catwalk to view the mesmerising collection of haute couture, the exhibition reveals the beautiful secrets of couture by showing the very best of design. In the last section of the exhibition visitors eyes are opened to the ways of couture, the full intricacy of design at such a high level is displayed through the wedding dress of Princess Maris Chantal of Greece. The gown demonstrates the extent of the work that is involved in creating a couture piece.

A selection of films, specially commissioned for the exhibition, give a behind-the-scenes look into the Valentino Atelier and for those interested in the man behind the couture you can also explore the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum.

Valentino: Master of Couture – Installation image – Photo by Peter Macdiarmid

The exhibition is a comprehensive look at the extent of Valentino’s genius and flair for couture design.

Visit the Somerset House website for more information:

Valentino: Master of Couture – Installation image – Photo by Peter Macdiarmid

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Written by Roanna Price

Roanna Price, fascinated by the escapism, imagination and conversation that can be conjured in the glossy page of fashion writing. Journalism graduate in Liverpool Roanna is responsible for our Top Model Biographies section.

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