If you love fashion, you always dream of one day having an experience with the modern masters. Valentino Garavani is one of them. And as familiar as I am with his work, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what I was about to experience at Forever Valentino.
I should have known that when I walked into the M7 Museum, in Msheireb Downtown Doha, I would want to spend hours than humanely possible just being entranced by the garments. It’s a feeling that was echoed by another appreciator of fashion, who excitedly exclaimed “What Is All This, Doha!?” as he took in the beauty all around him.
Everywhere you look, there are intricate designs and beautiful couture gowns. You can’t help but feel awestruck by the craftsmanship on display. And as you learn more about Valentino’s life and work, you start to appreciate the genius behind his designs even more.
For many, Valentino Garavani is a legend in the fashion world, and his influence on fashion is enduring. In 2008, fashion icon Valentino Garavani presented his last haute couture show in Paris at the Musée Rodin. In the finale, models walked down in the runway draped in his signature shade of red.
And there is where my experience truly began. I wasn’t ready to be welcomed by Valentino Garavani’s swansong- his iconic red haute couture collection. I wasn’t ready to hear the ambient noise of what it sounds like outside his atelier in Rome.
Moving through each room of the exhibition, you are left with an appreciation of fashion. And the power of storytelling.
It’s fitting that the exhibition was co-curated by fashion editor, collector and author, Alexander Fury. Fury has built a career in fashion journalism that has set him apart as one of the leading voices. That he was tapped to help weave the Valentino story for ‘Forever Valentino’, helps to take the exhibition forward. Fury worked closely with the current Valentino Creative Director, Pierpaolo Piccioli, and Italian curator, Massimiliano Gioni.
It’s clear that this is a celebration of not only the man, but his living art works that have dressed some of the most prolific figures. I gasped in delight as I saw miniature figurines inside one of the rooms that had the original designs. As one of the most respected couturiers, seeing personal anecdotes and notes about his designs (and Piccioli’s) was a rare treat.
SUB: Valentino, The Star Maker
From his early days as a designer in Rome, to his years as the preferred couturier for Hollywood stars, his final years as a designer, to the works of his successors, Pierpaolo Piccioli (and Maria Grazia Chiuri) this exhibit covers it all. You even get to see some of his personal belongings, including his notebooks and sketches.
You’ll see sketches and designs from some of his most iconic collections, as well as photographs of him with celebrities and socialites.
And then it’s like a rollercoaster of Valentino looks from the past century. From Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Onassis Kennedy to Audrey Hepburn and Greta Garbo – there is an enduring style that is prevalent throughout each look.
I surprised myself as I recognised several gowns previously worn by Hollywood stars and royalty. The black gown worn by Anne Hathaway at the 2013 Met Gala, the Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned’s unforgettable red gown for a state visit in the UK; Lady Gaga’s pink feathered confection at the 2019 Venice Film Festival; Zendaya’s yellow Emmy’s gown; Angelina Jolie’s gold gown worn in 2021’s Eternal’s premiere and Julia Roberts’ now iconic vintage black and white gown she wore to accept her Oscar in 2001.
As you move through the exhibition, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at Valentino’s creative process, including his use of fabrics and colours. There are also interactive displays where you can learn about the making of some of his famous gowns.
And then the themed rooms! From the now ubiquitous Valentino Pink collection, the 2020 collection, to the recent haute couture collection presented on the Spanish Steps, it’s a story of where the house has been to and where it is going. Each room has a different feeling and soundtrack. It forces you to get the full experience.
What becomes evident, is that Valentino truly understands women and how they want to feel when they dress up. He once said: “My job is to make women look beautiful”. And that he does- through embellishments, tailoring and an understanding of what’s important to a woman’s silhouette; he has created some unforgettable moments in fashion history.
The exhibition ends on a high note with contemporary looks from Piccioli’s continuing vision for Valentino. It feels like a natural progression and leaves you wanting more.
This is an ode to a couturier who helped changed the face of fashion. It is a fitting tribute to this great man and his incredible legacy.
Forever Valentino is truly a testament to the remarkable talent and incomparable work of one of fashion’s greatest legends. Not only does it give viewers an inside look at the genius behind some of the world’s most recognizable designs, but also serves as an appreciation for all that he has done to shape and revolutionize the industry.
It is sure to be a fascinating experience that will leave you inspired and even more in awe of the masterful works created by this great designer.
Forever Valentino is on until Sat Apr 1, 2023.