By Avril Groom
Catering only for the super-rich, it is insulated from the economic and social uncertainties that are making life difficult for top-end ready-to-wear and it has a new stream of young, eager clients who want to buy exactly what they see on the catwalk. So it has become all about crowd-pleasing and craft rather than creative angst, and along the way the beauty quotient has soared.
Never more so than at Valentino, where designer Pierpaolo Piccioli, now working solo, has moved its couture into a more modern era with gracefully elegant shapes, subtly clever colour mixes and highly-refined embellishment, never losing sight of the long, stately silhouette which is its signature. The mood of serious beauty is key this season, also in the demure yet exquisite grey coats and dresses – from pleated grey wool to embroidered satin – by Piccioli’s erstwhile colleague Maria Grazia Chiuri, at Dior, in the sleek, 1930s-inflected suits and dresses from Ulyana Sergeenko and in full-skirted evening outfits from Armani Privé, in black or navy tulle or velvet, sparkling with embroidery and appliqué in bright cerise and blue.