Valentino: Master of Couture

A major new exhibition celebrating the life and work of Valentino will open at Somerset House this November. “Valentino: Master of Couture” will be a glamorous exhibition focusing exclusively on haute couture created by the legendary Italian designer.

A previously unseen photograph from Valentino’s personal archive at his Wideville estate.

A major new exhibition celebrating the life and work of Valentino will open at Somerset House this November. “Valentino: Master of Couture” will be a glamorous exhibition focusing exclusively on haute couture created by the legendary Italian designer. With a 50-year career starting in the late 1950s this exhibition will showcase over 130 hand-crafted designs worn by icons such as Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Gwyneth Paltrow. A prophetic designer and creator of exquisite, beautiful clothes, this is Valentino as he has never been seen before.

Featuring dresses from the couture catwalk and red carpet, as well as designs commissioned by private clients, this exhibition brings together a comprehensive collection of couture, much of which has never been seen outside the Valentino atelier. The exhibition will give visitors a rare glimpse behind the closed doors of Valentino’s world, allowing them to experience the thrill of walking the runway and reveal Valentino’s craftsmanship.

“Each of these designs have a beautiful story,” says Valentino. “The atelier crafted each so diligently by hand, taking hours, sometimes days to complete. 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.”

Known for his long-standing relationships with the world’s most glamorous women, Valentino has designed for princesses, first ladies and Hollywood icons. As a result, exhibition highlights will include the vintage dress worn by Julia Roberts when she won an Academy Award in 2001, Jackie Onassis’s wedding dress from Valentino’s 1968 White Collection and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece’s pearl-encrusted ivory silk wedding gown, which the New York socialite wore to marry Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece in 1995.

The exhibition design for Valentino: Master of Couture has been created specially for Somerset House by internationally renowned design team Kinmonth Monfreda, long time collaborators of Valentino, and realized in collaboration with Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti. The exhibition has been curated by Alistair O’Neill for Somerset House with Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda.

The exhibition promises to be a unique experience for each visitor and will be divided as follows:


The first room delves into the unique world of Valentino featuring previously unseen personal photographs, couture invitations and images of Valentino at work and play from his personal archive in Wideville, France.

The Catwalk

For Valentino: Master of Couture, Somerset House’s Embankment Galleries will be transformed into a glamorous couture catwalk. In a clever reversal of roles each visitor takes the place of the model walking along a sixty-metre runway to view the ‘audience’, all of whom will be dressed in Valentino Couture. Evening gowns, dresses, trouser suits, minis, capes and kaftans, the catwalk will take visitors on a journey through fashion from the 1950s to today. The garments will be grouped by themes rather than chronologically, for example tones of black and white, volume and Valentino red. They will be on open display, so the craftsmanship is clearly visible. The catwalk display will culminate in recent dresses by the current house of Valentino.

The Atelier and les petits mains

Descending the stairs from the catwalk, visitors will see the exquisite wedding dress of Princess Marie-Chantal made with ten different kinds of lace. Beyond this will be a room dedicated to Valentino’s current passion, the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum, which will allow visitors to explore Valentino’s legacy even further through interactive and multi media content.

In the final room, visitors will be able to see behind the scenes at the atelier through a series of specially made films that show in minute detail the artistry of the couture techniques that go into making a Valentino gown. This includes the technique of budellini, which is unique to Valentino. Hundreds of hours of work go into each Couture gown made in the Valentino atelier.

Gwyn Miles, Director of Somerset House said: “We are delighted to welcome Valentino to Somerset House and show off his beautiful designs in such a spectacular way. Somerset House will be the ultimate destination for fashion and glamor this winter. Following on from London Fashion Week, visitors will have the chance to see fashion photographer Tim Walker’s new exhibition Story Teller and Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Color as well as Skate at Somerset House – the original and most glamorous open-air ice-rink in London.”

Dates: 29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013
Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm Daily. Late night openings on Thursdays until 9pm
Where: Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA