Alessandra Facchinetti's first haute couture show for Valentino was an ode to refined luxury. The house's new creative director, who took the reins after Valentino Gharavani retired in January, succeeded in showcasing the skills of the atelier while exercising a modern restraint.
Facchinetti has said she wants to attract new, younger clients to the label and, while couture designs can sometimes feel heavy and over-embellished, there was a freshness and an innocence to the collection that is likely to see that wish fulfilled.
By revisiting the clean lines of Valentino's pared-down 1960s aesthetic – most famously the wedding dress he designed for Jackie Kennedy-Onassis in 1968 – Facchinetti created a sleek basis for eye-catching embellishment and an occasional flourish of romance. There were ovoid coats and funnel necks, while classic skirt-suits in brown and cream tweed came with the added twist of a gently swollen tulip skirt, or a stiff frill. Highlights of evening wear included an empire-line strapless dress the colour of a ripening lime finished with circles of tufted wool. In homage to the founder, the show ended with an elegant gown in Valentino red.
A more irreverent tone pervaded Jean-Paul Gaultier's show earlier yesterday. The final dress was a bridal gown with a large cage-like veil trailing behind. Perhaps it was a tongue-in-cheek gesture pointing to marriage as a trap. Certainly it harked back to the iconic cage dress Gaultier once created for Grace Jones. The cage motif also appeared over fur coats – this designer clearly has no qualms about a heavy use of fur and exotic skins – along with more signature details in the form of corseted belts and fetishistic, equestrian straps.