There is always a running dialogue in creative circles about the difference between fashion versus style, design versus decoration, creator versus creative, and art versus craft. It is a hierarchical discussion meant to define the differences between the disciplines raising one above the other. I do not usually subscribe to this type of thinking as it tends to push something up in an effort to put something down. Instead, I tend to recognize the benefits of all of those expressions while celebrating their differences, as they each create something unique and interesting, albeit for different reasons with different outcomes. In fact each play an important role in keeping the balance of the whole, enabling us to appreciate the differences.
However, in the fast moving creative world of fashion there is something admirable to be said for the creation of a singular “style”, as it is somewhat of a complex event. It doesn’t happen often as it requires a very singular and consistent point of view. It also requires tremendous focus and discipline to create a world that conveys a message with meaning. When it happens in the world of fashion it is immediately recognizable and all encompassing. The clothes and the accessories that are part of this world are synonymous, and they fit snugly together. You see that the proportions are in line, and make sense, the colors are in harmony even in discord, and, in short, everything just “belongs” together. If it is done well, it creates something quite new and complete. You feel that you can imagine the lifestyle of the individual that wears these clothes, and that there are even character traits that belong to them. They seem to all belong to a select group or club of like-minded individuals, almost like a religious order.
There have been many designers that have created “style” rather than fashion over the years, but there are not many designers who have come along that achieve this enigmatic state very often. Therefore it happens within decades rather than seasons; mainly because it is a point of view that lasts over time rather than flip-flopping from spring to fall and so on. Some of the obvious names that have achieved this successfully are Christian Dior, Christobal Balenciaga, Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent to name a few. Each created a lasting impression of style for the women that wore their clothes that not only meant change for the fashion industry, but often was a catalyst to the cultural changes of the times that surrounded them. Dior’s “New Look” and Cardin’s “Mod Look” are famous for this.
This type of all encompassing style is being created right now at the house of Valentino through the new design team of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccoli. Exquisitely crafted, meticulously sewn, and impeccably designed the clothes speak a language that is entirely their own. While there are some references to an earlier time and one feels that Audrey Hepburn, Capucine, and Claudia Cardinale would be quite comfortable here, the outcome is still unique, current, and totally fresh. You sense the qualities of the woman that wears them. She is fragile and intelligent, but strong and decided. Her sensibilities lean toward the discreet and quiet, and it is her nature to be modest, an eternal ingenue ushering in a new era of civility – replacing the garish world of bling, flash, and self promotional push. It is a welcomed breath of fresh air.
This season the designers were inspired by two Italian Pop Artists, Giosetta Fioroni, and Carol Rama who had major achievements in the Italian Art world in 1960′s and 1970′s, and continued on into the millennium. I looked at the photos of the show and was confused by a message that seemed to be all over the place lacking a singular theme or point of view. However, after some research, viewing the video of the show, and seeing the clothes in motion, I realized that what was on view was a new version of their world. It was a modernist approach that celebrated the lives and work of two women who were ground breakers in art, and whose work reflected lives that experienced reality, real issues, real problems, real emotion, and real change, that were anything but smooth. Their work is sexually charged; often raw, and guttural, and you can see the changes in their lives reflected plainly in their work. These experiences also played out in the collection, and so it went from mood to mood, and often appeared to make drastic shifts – just the way our own lives do.
It was a beautiful example of modernity where one could see the worlds of real and raw collide with ethereal elegance. The design duo took this inspiration and embraced it with the same excellence, exquisite artistry, and the same sense of impeccable quality. In the end the clothes spoke of strength with the same unique language; a direct, distinct Italian dialect all it’s own.
We put this post together using images of the work of both artists Giosetta Fioroni and Carol Rama displayed next to photos of the collection, much the same way that a designers mood board is done. Once you see the works juxtaposed you will see how inspiration became reality.