The best thing about fashion exhibitions is that they provide an opportunity to gawp at expensive clothes. They offer freedom from the attentions of snooty sales assistants and the oh-so-loaded question, “can I help you at all?”
The obvious answer is: “of course you can! Lend me £2000.00 so that I can buy that beaded cocktail dress”.
Once fashion is in a museum, gawping is to be expected. There is no pressure to buy anything more than a commemorative postcard booklet. That’s what makes museums a great leveller and a haven for cheapskate fashion fans.
The latest designer to get the exhibition treatment is Valentino – the octogenarian couturier with the rich tan and even richer clients. He is being honoured with an exhibition at Somerset House that opens 29 November.
Valentino: Master of Couture will showcase 130 handcrafted designs from throughout his 50-year career. There will be gowns that have been worn by Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Most of the garments will have never been seen away from the catwalk or red carpet, giving visitors a rare and up-close glimpse at the true craft of couture. As Valentino himself has recognised:
The details are incredibly intricate, though outside the runway shows and events, the dresses have rarely been seen, so to be able to showcase these designs at Somerset House, where they can be seen in great detail by the public, is very unique.”
Highlights of the exhibition include Jackie Onassis’s wedding dress and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece’s pearl-encrusted ivory silk wedding gown.
World-renowned design team, Kinmonth Monfreda has collaborated with curator Alistair O’Neill to create an exhibition that immerses visitors deep into the world of Valentino.
It will begin with an exploration of Valentino’s personal archives and photo collections, before placing guests on a catwalk, gazing out to an ‘audience’ dressed in Valentino couture. Garments will be grouped by theme rather than chronologically, with clusters of monochrome accented by flashes of the signature Valentino red.
The final two rooms will combine interactive technology with the hands-on artistry of the atelier.
Valentino: Master of Couture is set to embrace everything that is fabulous, frivolous and finely crafted about haute-couture. It will explore a world where money is no object and customers are princesses, film stars and socialites. But don’t worry, visitors only have to stump up the £12.50 admission fee then they can gawp to their hearts content.
Tickets will go on sale late August.
Valentino: Master of Couture at Somerset House
29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013
Embankment Galleries, South Wing
WC2R 1 LA
10am-16pm daily, late night opening on Thursdays until 9pm
Admissions: £12.50 Concessions: £9.00
Image: Valentino with models, 2007 © Lorenzo Agius @ www.aandrphotographic.co.uk