Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli have only designed Valentino for a few seasons. After Alessandra Fachinetti's sudden dismissal from the label, seemingly for not respecting its heritage in Valentino's eyes, Chiuri and Picciolo played it safe for a couple of shows. Critics lamented that their clothes were perfectly fine but didn't push any boundaries. With their latest couture collection for the label, it's become increasingly apparent they are trying to make Valentino cool. If nothing else gave that away, Alice Dellal's presence on the runway in look 23 must have. To some degree, the new direction worked for critics in yesterday's spring 2010 couture show, and to some degree it did not.
The theme was Garden of Eden, and critics agreed the designers succeeded in creating a "transporting" experience. Models had blue Avatar makeup on their shoulders and the clothes had a distinct eco, leafy vibe, like they sprouted up from Pandora soil. But WWD said the show "seemed too desperate to be achingly cool." The paper wondered "where in this fantasy world was the essence of Valentino?" Though they applaud Chiuri and Piccioli for trying to take the label in a new direction, they add that it's "easier said than done."
Suzy Menkes, who lamented Galliano's ode to the past in his spring 2010 Dior couture show, had more positive things to say about Valentino than WWD did. She writes in the Times:
The sheer organza leggings that went under brief dresses looked like trying too hard to be hip. But the clothes themselves, with swathes of drapes or inserts, using layered chiffon in different pastel colors, were delicately done.
Though she points out there were clear influences from Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Rodarte, she said the house's "metamorphosis would seem to have begun."
Menkes also applauded the designers for the Avatar and eco themes. (Jean Paul Gaultier's spring 2010 couture collection shared those influences.) She writes:
To be in the flow of fashion rather than among its leaders is not necessarily a bad thing.
Okay, so she's not completely won over. But this Avatar stuff probably won't go away.
The fragile ecosystem of that imaginary distant moon Pandora has impacted fashion in color, texture and feeling. And it is a safe bet that these 3-D cat-like people and the “green” message behind the movie is going to effect an entire fashion generation, as “Star Wars” did before it.
Fine. But we're still not seeing it.