VALENTINO AUTUMN/WINTER 2015-16 READY-TO-WEAR PARIS FASHION WEEK

VALENTINO AUTUMN/WINTER 2015-16 READY-TO-WEAR PARIS FASHION WEEK

A fashion face-off of epic proportions occurred in Paris today. Derek Zoolander and Hansel, aka Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, made cameos at the tail end of the Valentino show, each doing his best “Blue Steel.” Judging by the audience’s reaction, Zoolander 2, which is currently filming in Valentino’s home base of Rome, is going to be a Very. Big. Movie. But even without the crowd-pleasing surprise appearances, this would’ve been a memorable Valentino show, long on Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli’s signature dresses, but rendered in such exquisite new ways you fell in love all over again.

More often than not, Chiuri and Piccioli go to their Italian origins for inspiration. For Fall they looked at Emilie Flöge and Celia Birtwell, two women who were both artists and muses (Flöge to Gustav Klimt, and Birtwell to her husband, the designer Ossie Clark, as well as the painter David Hockney). The new perspective energized them. Flöge, who was a couturier in her own right and rejected her era’s de rigueur corsets, gave the designers the collection’s gentle A-line silhouettes and the gold leaf effects on fox-fur coats, as well as lit-from-within quilted velvet coats. Birtwell, who is still alive and kicking and collaborated with Chiuri and Piccioli on their Pre-Fall collection, supplied the dragon motif that decorated a black trapeze dress.

But there was much more at play here, from the casual new vibes of oversize fisherman knit sweaters worn with A-line midi skirts to the sensual efficiency of silk crepe dresses unadorned but for some subtle contrast piping. It’s a testament to Chiuri and Piccioli’s talents and experience that they’re as adept at an understated tie-neck blouse and wide-leg culottes, or an away-from-the-body black dress paneled in tonal strips of leather, as they are at their lovely eveningwear. Inevitably, though, it’s the gowns that get the attention. There were too many knockouts here to mention them all, so we’ll pick our favorite: a long-sleeve black net dress embroidered with gold and patchworked with geometric tufts of mink that could have stepped right out of a Klimt canvas.

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