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This season Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri & Pierpaolo Piccioli left Rome to explore vibrant Africa. They created a collection that encapsulated the “beauty that comes out of cross-cultural expression”. Chiuri & Piccioli showed a variety of silhouettes, but I wanted to focus on the dresses for which they are famous for. Graceful, feminine and light – Valentino’s gowns capture the label’s romantic mood beautifully.

A rich color palette paired with sumptuous textures, elegantly highlighted the couture craftsmanship that the design duo do so well. There were geometric maxis and sweeping black gowns trimmed in beaded Masai-derived patterns. One of my favorite looks from the Spring ’16 runway was the sheer dress with forest green embroideries. Skilfully crafted by Italian artisans, the sleeves were decorated in bold peacock feathers and the delicate embellishments included an outline of a giraffe (stitched in a warmer hue). For the finale, Valentino sent out a sequence of sheer gowns: one marvelously embroidered with tiny feathered birds flying across the bodice, another with a flock of silver beaded birds, its full skirt made of fine silk fringe layered over frothy tulle.

It is a shame that such a magnificent collection was eclipsed by a few insensitive artistic choices. The designers were so focused on representing cross-cultural pollination in their clothes, but the styling and casting should have reflected that as well. As many observers commented on twitter, the models were mostly white and they wore cringe-inducing braided hairdos. The house of Valentino is not one to incite controversy and they certainly aren’t desperate for press, their impressive designs generate enough buzz on their own. Despite errors in runway presentation this season’s collection was brilliant. Valentino was one of the only shows at PFW to receive a standing ovation.

Image credit: vogue.com