Roman sandals and a breezy silk print dress: Who wouldn’t want to buy into the fantasy of taking off on a summer holiday in Italy? Like Dolce & Gabbana, and their excavations of Sicilian culture, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioliat Valentino see no reason to look beyond their own city to find layers and layers of history to inspire them. The past they chose for spring looked vaguely seventies, an era in which Mr. Valentino Garavani’s alta moda reigned happily supreme in Rome. The designers are no literalists, though. The techniques they have at their fingertips—pristine, crunchy, cutout tablecloth linen, rippling treatments of georgette, mind-blowing embroideries of minute feathers, beads, and crystals—have been passed down directly, hand-to-hand, from the master himself, but they’ve been lightened up. So much so, that you can see a good deal of skin these days through the dresses on a Valentino runway.
The designers’ ability to fashion exquisite fairy-tale dress is well established–and each one of them here is perfect in its own way. Such is the restless eye, though, that the things that didn’t belong to that familiar category seemed more arresting. A bold baroque print of flowers and curliques looked great in a passage that included a simple-seeming burgundy and white vaguely forties midi dress with a softly gathered raised waist, and collar and pockets embroidered with tiny beads. A lone navy devore velvet and tulle dress with a pattern shooting up from hem to bodice was one of the most outstanding dresses of the whole season. Question, though: Did every model have to be so young? In a season where so many designers are embracing multiple ages and ethnicities, it would be good to show that Valentino is for women as well as girls.