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Valentino, On to the Future

PARIS, March 6, 2005 - One of the big surprises of the Paris season was Sunday's Valentino show, where the Roman designer decided to switch his attention from the red carpet to the blue sofas at Starbucks. "I want my clothes to be worn on the street so that they become real for the women that wear them", he wrote in program notes.  And the succinct and linear collection he presented was a major change from past seasons, where yards and yards of diaphanous chiffon floated in long trains, and toga-gowns were the specialty du jour. There were no togas today, but lots of highly wearable pieces that seemed tailored for a younger generation. And for the first time, boys hit the runway along with the girls - following the same modus operandi now used by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel and Christian Lacroix for his ready-to-wear shows. The women's pieces were in turn influenced by masculine codes, with lots of slacks worn with sharply tailored jackets, a terseness running throughout.

But there was lots of romance to be found, even as the soundtrack sang out "It may be winter outside - in my heart it's spring". By the time a poppy-red evening gown with taffeta ruffles burst into bloom at the finale, that spinning theme of seduction had more than won over a surprised throng of guests, buyers and editors. And as always, Valentino's velvet glove shown through in the eveningwear, even in it's subdued form. Elsewhere an I-Pod hung from a belt, and sparkling brooches were used sparingly as trimming. One of the guys got the most beautiful mink coat of all - but there was enough fur flying to keep the most ardent Fashionista smiling.

While other designers have been desperately clinging to the sixties this season, Valentino had the gumption to move on to new turf. That's where the world now is, and that's what made this collection so natural.


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