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Valentino Gets It Right

PARIS, March 5, 2006 - By the time octogenarian Valentino bounced down the 19 steps leading from his mammoth marble-esque backdrop, he'd sent out a collection as spry as his step. Fashionista expecting to see an assortment of voluptuous toga-gowns found instead an assortment of intricate pieces far more linear and graphic than has been seen in past seasons.

"Sexy men in black" was scribbled by Valentino in program notes, and it took a while to figure out what he was talking about. Instead of an androgynous study of the masculine suit, he used ultra-masculine fabrics - prince of wales check, herringbone tweed, fuzzy woolies - to confect pieces that were ultra-feminine. The opening cluster of twenty black and white ensembles was ornamented only by the odd sparkling bow tie or the whiff of velvet trim, a sparse dusting of crystal embroidery. One knitted crocodile jacquard coat was paired with an ivory silk blouse and woolen crêpe skirt. Luscious.

The highlight of the show was not the flurry of paired down evening dresses (four poppy red) that came out in one big burst at the finale, but instead the vibrant Picasso-like prints sandwiched in the middle. These gorgeous pieces included a series of ballerina skirts - one sparkling like a wet canvas and veiled by a subtle web of black tulle.

This was not Valentino as we know him, but a designer whose changed gears to keep on top changing times.


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