An ode to a new beginning: Valentino suspends models from ceiling in breathtaking couture show

For autumn / winter 2020, the Italian house delivered a dreamlike, visual ballet

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If fashion is meant to be the stuff of dreams, then haute couture – its highest iteration – is the earthly echo of something magical. Or at least that’s what Valentino would have us believe.

With the physical show cancelled, the Italian house instead delivered a theatrical performance on Tuesday, July 21 to present its autumn / winter 2020 collection.

The presentation, entitled Of Grace and Light, was created in collaboration with British fashion photographer Nick Knight.

A look from the autumn / winter 2020 haute couture show by Valentino. Courtesy Valentino
A look from the autumn / winter 2020 haute couture show by Valentino. Courtesy Valentino

In a darkened space, 15 models, each wearing long white gowns, were atmospherically illuminated and suspended by hidden body harnesses. The models then began to slowly move and turn in time with the music, allowing the dresses to shift and fall.

Colourful images of birds' wings, feathers, flowers and embroidery were then projected on to these balletic figures, like a beautiful, slow-motion dreamscape.

Left as pure white, the gowns offered a stunning visual contrast to the inky shadows surrounding them. The brevity of the designs also allowed the eye to take in the skill of the atelier, seen in intricate layers of ostrich plumes, fragile horizontal pleating and capes covered in hand-cut ruffles.

Great clouds of fabric were made into ballooning sleeves and voluminous bodices, while another piece was bereft of adornment, left instead as a simple square-necked gown, offset with an elaborate headpiece of white flowers.

The oversized dresses, which must have been five metres in length, captured in their design nods to life's new beginnings, such as the trailing length of a baby's christening gown and the pure white of a wedding dress.

In the accompanying notes, creative designer Pierpaolo Piccioli spoke of "moments of reset or restart" throughout history, as a way of making sense of this pandemic. "White, the sum of all colours, captures the blank slate of this new beginning, the sense of infinite possibilities," he declared. "White as a sheet of paper waiting for it to be filled with lines and ideas."

With the coronavirus having created so much disruption across the world, Valentino is proposing we embrace it as a chance to start again with a clean slate.

The notes finish with the statement that "couture is an invite to dream with open eyes".

Of all the digital couture shows that have taken place over the past few weeks, Valentino's was undoubtedly the most astonishingly beautiful to behold.

Imaginative and ethereal, it offers us all a chance to dream, to embrace the poetic and to emerge from the darkness, bathed in light.