First published 2012. Words by Livia Firth
The Valentino Oscar gown, from start to finish with Livia Firth.
November 2011 and I found myself in a dream. Entering the Valentino Palace where the couture pieces are still designed, cut, sown and created by an expert team of seamstresses who had been there for many years. The rooms here are filled with skilful women wearing white aprons, sometimes donning gloves so as not to mark the delicate fabrics and exquisite embroideries that they still do by hand. This is a painstaking operation where it takes many weeks to make a single gown. Having visited operations in Bangladesh at the other end of the fashion spectrum, producing for low cost multiple retailers where women over thirty five are considered unemployable ( is this perhaps because they are less malleable and easily intimidated?) the first thing that struck me was that here, different ages work together; the young women learning top class tailoring skill for the older more experience women.
Naturally this great design house had questions, particularly about the GCC?s use of eco fabrics. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli at the helm of Valentino wanted to know if our criteria would still allow them to create the uber glamorous, light, magical gowns they are now famous for? Could our ethics meet with their finally tuned aesthetics?
Well, as soon as I saw the sketch of the dress they had in mind for me I knew it was possible. A highly elegant, polished gown that immediately appealed to my romantic nature but with the promise of the high sheen we now know is absolutely necessary for the biggest red carpet of all. I knew I had my Oscar gown for 2012.
The GCC team and Valentino met in Paris to talk fabric and worked hard to find the right balance of materials that would deliver the full Valentino effect and conform to the GCC criteria. The result is a real hybrid dress, the combination of an amazing recycled PET fabric along with the Valentino?s house silk for the beautiful sheer sleeves of the gown.
Back in Rome under the expert hands of Valentino?s head seamstress the corset was built. Really we could reclassify this woman as an engineer! Then to LA for the final fitting, just a few days before the Oscars. This time I went to the Valentino HQ in Beverly Hills. There are always a few nerves about the Oscar dress and I did feel butterflies as I tried it on but actually this was more a feeling of excitement. The gown is the picture of elegance that I’ve always dreamed of since I was about ten. It’s the biggest I’ve worn to date, the ultimate Cinderella dress and I think a triumph of ethics and Valentino’s showstopping aesthetics.