Valentino Reveres Rome in Doha for Extensive Fashion Exhibition

Valentino Reveres Rome in Doha for Extensive Fashion Exhibition

Much like the legendary fashion house itself, “Forever Valentino” is anchored in the essence of Rome: evocative, passionate, and brimming with emotional life. The maison’s largest institutional showing to date—and its first in the Middle East—the exhibition has just opened at Qatar’s M7 design hub in Doha as part of the Qatar Creates cultural festival. Channeling the spirit of Valentino into recreated views of Rome, it discovers the creative evolution of the fashion house over the past six decades.

The Italian capital—where the house has been based since its founding in 1959—is, of course, the centerpiece of the show, which traces the story of the maison’s becoming, bringing together the fashion fantasies of Valentino Garavani and his successor, Pierpaolo Piccioli. Curated by New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni and fashion critic Alexander Fury with Piccioli, "Forever Valentino" discovers more than 200 couture and pret-à porter pieces that chart the development of house from its atelier foundations to its multidimensional contemporary identity.

Pierpaolo Piccioli, Massimiliano Gioni, and Alexander Fury at "Forever Valentino." Image courtesy of the brand. 

“Rome has always been one of the main sources of inspiration for Valentino. The heritage of the brand is deeply rooted in a pictorial, architectonic, and historical mood that directly belongs to the city,” says Piccioli. “Rome’s layers and codes, high and low, sacred and profane—things never stop amazing me. The identity of Valentino lies in that Valentino is a Roman couture house.”

The showcase's curation merges a range of spaces and creative influences into visual contrasts, referencing the 18th century art of capriccio. These elements are reimagined as a conversation between the streets of Rome and the house’s innerworkings. “Capriccios were paintings and etchings by the likes of Canaletto or Piranesi, which depicted the streets of Rome or Venice by combining different fragments and details of architecture into a kind of panoramic collage of different views,” explains Gioni. “They were landscapes of the soul and the mind: souvenirs of a fantasy city made up of fragments of different buildings.”

Commencing with a reproduction of the Valentino's headquarters at Palazzo Mignanelli, Igor Mitoraj’s Sorgente del Centurione sculpture leads visitors into the show with interplay between history and the present day. Then, a monochrome white atelier space follows with its in-depth view of couture creation while the Capriccio Romano pays tribute to the cinema with black and white décor and clothing, including theatrical moments such as moving images projected over white dresses on the ceiling. Throughout, Garavani’s prolific designs are shown alongside Piccioli’s contemporary visions—as well as those of former creative presences Alessandra Facchinetti and Maria Grazia Chiuri—to offer a comprehensive, authentic view of the maison. Highlights include pieces worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Zendaya, as well as the private collection of Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.

The exhibition continues with Divas, where photos of Valentino-adorned celebrities line the walls as a backdrop to the garments shown. Quietly shaping this space are the changing roles of women, nodding to Valentino’s long-held progressive views—championing independence and diverse pillars of beauty. “Mr. Valentino witnessed changes for women in society, and his work has empowered beauty to give visibility to these big changes that happened. That is also what I want to do every day,” says Piccioli. “I think part of this house’s heritage is to give beauty a sort of fierceness and power, because through true beauty, you can tell many stories and deliver important values.”

“Forever Valentino” next unfolds into the Parade room—boasting vibrant PP pink from his Fall/Winter 2022 ready-to-wear collection and Douglas Coupland’s word art. Here, dialogue is the primary focus, particularly how media and staging can influence identity. The audience is encouraged to see all worldly assumptions in a new light. “The question is how to define different possibilities for beauty to exist in a world that is open, complex, and polyphonic,” suggests Gioni. “What will surprise viewers is the unique opportunity to get very close—both physically and metaphorically—to the creative process, almost to the very architecture, that shapes clothes by Valentino.”

Then, the exhibit pans back to the past in the Wunderkammer room, where the maison’s archives are the core of the experience. In this interactive space—where pieces are hung from the ceiling to upend expectations—viewers are encouraged to open drawers and unexpectedly discover treasures, much as Piccioli did in immersing himself in the house’s history to create its path forward. His cahiers de defile “dream books” that contain collections’s drawings, notes, and photos—are revealed here for the first time, giving a rare and detailed view of his design process.

“Couture means uniqueness, it means care. Care is about people, it's about humanity, it's about individuality,” shares Piccioli. “I did The Beginning collection in Roma, and I had in mind all the glamour and beauty of the past. And all the symbols were there: the roses, the romanticism, the lightness, but I wanted the clothes to be meaningful and significant for today. To me, what is important is to be exactly where you are but to try to give your own perspective of today’s times.”

The finale of the showcase is Roman Conversations, held in a model of the Piazza di Spagna. Sixty dresses are shown here in a kaleidoscope of Renaissance tones with a range of multicultural mannequins. The rooms highlights the impact of color as a fashionable tool, and an opportunity to emphasize diversity and equality.

“Every day, I celebrate the timeless values of the house. The exhibition is the story of Mr. Valentino, myself, and the story of all of us that put passion and love into the clothes we create,” says Piccioli. “We are everlasting romantics coping with today’s contradictions and marvels. We inhabit the contemporary moment, while staying true to our past with no nostalgia, only passion. The exhibition sets phase for a new beginning and widens the culture of couture around the world.”

Forever Valentino” is on view until April 1, 2023 at the M7 design hub at 7GPH+P33, Abdullah Bin Thani St, Doha, Qatar.