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High Relief at Valentino L’École Spring/Summer 2024

Grace Sandles

The Valentino SS24 show was, in many ways, centered around the concept of return. Set beneath the centuries-old statues of the Maison’s founder Valentino Garavani’s alma mater, the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts’ atrium, models floated in pieces designed to celebrate and reclaim the natural order of female freedom, relieved from the sexualising force of the male gaze.

Perched on white plinths, dancers in nude undergarments performed across pits of sand and stones with goddess-like ethereality, alongside FKA Twigs, whose crooning serenaded the bright cavernous space.

Reasserting the nude as an invocation of nature and emancipation rather than subject of the male gaze— a Herculean task to set oneself in a single clothing show—Pierpaolo Piccioli productively united garment and woman, with simple silhouettes and cutouts that artfully revealed the models' skin .

Despite the show’s scale, Piccioli managed a resonant intimacy. The beauty looks were decidedly pared back and ‘natural’, with dewy skin and slicked-back hair. The show opened with a suite of all-white looks before moving through a soft palette of pink, beige and blue, with the occasional pop of forest green or fuchsia pink, and crescendoing with velvet black and Valentino’s signature red. The designer adopted the seventeenth-century sculptural technique altorilievo, or ‘high relief’ rendering a varied selection of naturalistic flowers, foliage, fruit and bird motifs in cloth. Grisaille prints imitated the intricate three-dimensional designs with a trompe l’oeil effect. The freedom and femininity of the motifs were echoed in the subtle lunar symbolism of the Moon Bag.

The flat Stud shoes and sandals paired with each look had a practical grounding effect. The hallmarks of quiet luxury—cotton poplin blazers, trousers and maxi skirts—demonstrated Valentino’s mastery of tailoring. Gold hardware on the bags and in the jewellery accented silk, linen, wool, denim and leather.

Honouring the woman as her own individual Aphrodite, Valentino L’École alleviated the pressures of glamour and sexuality. Favouring independence and sensuality, Piccioli constructed garments that prioritised comfort and wearability.

Framing bare sections of the body and reconsidering nudity as a natural state, the collection rightfully returns the female body back to the status of art.

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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