Call me old-fashioned. Okay, just call me old. When I’m watching a Valentino runway show, I still look for the trademark red dress. But Valentino Garavani has retired, and the label bearing his name is under the creative direction of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccoli. They’ve demonstrated sufficiently in previous seasons their understanding of the house’s philosophy and aesthetic, but are not necessarily tied to traditions such as the Valentino red dress.

That didn’t keep me from looking during their spring/summer 2014 presentation, and it didn’t keep me from being disappointed, but Valentino has moved on, in a marvelous direction that makes intricately detailed clothing wearable.

This season’s collection is based on operatic drama – see: Aida – and Mediterranean flair, according to the designers. Designs are beaded and embroidered, and the amount of detail work in each piece is absolutely staggering.

From head to toe, the initial looks are covered in intricate beaded designs of coral on tasseled capes, veiled dresses, macrame jackets. and soft-shouldered blouses. Coral headbands sitting like understated crowns on models’ heads add to the regalness, yet nothing in the collection is over-the-top. Even the most detailed of pieces still feels wearable.

While dresses certainly dominate the collection, there are plenty of other choices as well. Playsuits, jumpers, tunics, lounge pants and even delicate blue blouses with bow ties at the neckline are at home in the Valentino line. Silhouettes are loose, all the better to catch the cool evening Mediterranean breeze. Flat leather sandals help keep the look more casual, so much so that one can easily imagine wearing these clothes while strolling along the beach. Along the way, I’m pretty sure every color in the rainbow is covered, including a Valentino red suede dress.

Granted, with all that intricate bead work, these are not going to be the clothes with which one fills a closet. Prices are expected to be in the mid-four figures for full-length dresses and coats. But, this isn’t the collection one should build an entire wardrobe around in the first place. One piece, whether it’s the perfect coat or skirt or dress, is enough to completely transform everything else in your closet.

So, no, this isn’t the Valentino of old. The label has turned the right corner, though, and can expect to be a brand women will value having in their closets for many years to come.

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