The duo erected a vast sleek runway, designed by artist Pietro Ruffo, at the entrance of their historic atelier, one that stretches out over the entire parameters of the busy Piazza Mignanelli, just along from the Spanish Steps. No mean feat getting that signed off. “Yes, I want to be honest,” began Maria Grazia. “It was hard it took months to get permission.” Building the structure was the next task; work began a week ago but still this morning, in the stifling 34 degree heat, armies of Italian workmen were hard at work constructing the wooden set together, sanding, hammering, in between wiping the sweat from their soaked foreheads (Pierpaolo and Maria Grazia are no doubt used to construction Valentino’s headquarters are in the midst of refurbishment, too, where suspended ceilings have just been pulled down to reveal impressive frescos).
“It's actually the first time that we have shown a collection in the square,” continued Maria Grazia. “A show isn’t only about the dress, it’s also about the atmosphere, the music it’s entertainment, just like theatre, and this is our own open air theatre. It’s a moment to share the effortless beauty of this city, and we wanted to really open our door and invite everyone in to feel the experience and the lifestyle of Rome. We hope that's what people will take away with them.” In addition, of course, to some memories of some very special clothes none of which are ever likely to appear in any of our wardrobes any time soon. Even if you are a couture customer, it’s unlikely that you will be lucky enough to order any of these heart-stopping creations. Appointments are already full and the house is at capacity, which of course, to any Oligarch makes it all the more desirable.
Every one of the 59 looks presented this evening was imbued with a Roman essence, from the sliced gladiatorial skirts to the black Pagan gowns, Imperial capes and togas, to the wispy lace gowns with divine strapping and lacing decorating bare backs. “The collection feels very Roman but we wanted to translate those ideas in a modern way,” said Pierpaolo, gesturing to a traditional toga dress reimagined in plush velvet. The collection was mostly in black, bar a series of red looks, opulent gold, and some rich patchworks. “The patchwork pieces are actually inspired by the floors of antique Rome,” explained Pierpaolo. “Rome used to be very colourful in the past.” He continued: “We wanted to make the idea of haute couture modern, and for it to not belong to the past. We live in a city where beauty is so present, and it seeps in everywhere, even through to the seamstress, who sews with a different attitude. This beauty and this grace, it all translates to the clothes.”
Whatever the formula, it was breathtaking. This will be the show that most will remember when the couture collections draw to a close.