Valentino: Master of Couture, Somerset House

Known by just his first name, Valentino the man and Valentino the fashion brand are inseparable. In recognition of this Somerset House presents Valentino: Master of Couture, a celebration of the life and the work of Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani. This glamorous exhibition focuses exclusively on the haute couture created by the legendary Italian designer, from 29 November right up until 3 March 2013. With a 50-year career, there is plenty to exhibit and the show covers over 130 hand-crafted designs worn by icons such as Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Gwyneth Paltrow. Within the collection there will be dresses from the couture catwalk and red carpet alongside designs commissioned by private clients, giving visitors a unique insight behind the catwalk doors and right into Valentino’s world.

Well known for his well established relationships with the world’s most glamorous women (he can cite princesses, first ladies and Hollywood icons as contacts), Master of Couture documents his work with symbolic women over time. The exhibition highlights the vintage dress worn by Julia Roberts at the Academy Awards in 2001, Jackie Onassis’s wedding dress from 1968 and the pearl-encrusted ivory silk wedding gown worn by Princess Marie-Chantal in 1995. In order to present the works in a unique way, Somerset House has been transformed by Kinmonth Monfreda, long time collaborators with Valentino, into a catwalk runway as visitors take the place of models on the sixty meter runway. Around the edges of the catwalk are the “audience”, all of whom are dressed in Valentino couture, including evening gowns, trouser suits, minis, capes, and kafkans. Also taking into account aesthetic presentation, the pieces are ordered by theme rather than date, collecting together tones of black and white, volume and Valentino red.

As well as presenting a professional portfolio, the first room discovers previously unseen personal photographs of Valentino at work and at home. While there will be an exploration of the atelier through a series of specially made films that inspect the minute detail of producing a Valentino piece. The visitors are also given the opportunity to interact directly with the exhibition as the multi media content allows to delve even further into the Valentino legacy. Inspecting work and play, Master of Couture, casts new light on Valentino and his significant body of work.

Valentino: Master of Couture, 29 November until 3 March 2013, Somerset House Strand London WC2R 1LA.

All images courtesy of Peter Macdiarmid.