Valentino takes haute couture to the circus in Rome show

Italian luxury group Valentino had models suspended from swings in flowing white gowns against a pitch-black background in a circus-inspired haute couture show, live-streamed from Rome on Tuesday.

After being forced to cancel events, close shops and halt manufacturing during lockdowns triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, high-end fashion houses have largely ditched traditional catwalk shows and replaced them with films, videos and other formats to showcase their collections.

Valentino’s designer Pierpaolo Piccioli set his “Of Grace and Light” fall/winter 2020-21 couture show in Rome’s famed Cinecitta film studios, working with British photographer Nick Knight who remained in London.

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The event was part physical, part digital, with a small media audience attending.

It displayed 15 gowns, all pure white but for one with silver fringes, with cascades of feathers, ruffles, chiffon and taffeta. Some were four or five metres long, to showcase the painstaking work in creating them. In some cases, up to 4 000 hours of stitching by hand and 350 metres of fabric were needed.

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Piccioli told reporters on Zoom the lockdown had disrupted the availability of made-to-order embroideries and patterns but that his show wanted to send a message of hope and positivity.

“It came out at a tough moment but I believe our job is not to reflect the moment but rather react to it. Couture is made for emotions. It’s not for walking, it’s for dreams,” he said.

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