*QM and Maison Valentino has curated the exhibition at M7 For people visiting Qatar during FIFA World Cup 2022 and the fashion connoisseurs alike, ‘Forever Valentino’, a major perspective exhibition that pays homage to Valentino’s founder Valentino Garavani and the Maison’s still-unfolding heritage of Haute Couture excellence, couldn’t have arrived at M7 with more poignant timing. Was Valentino Garavani the most intelligent, business-aware designer far ahead of his time in the 1960s? Or is Pierpaolo Piccioli a romantic dreamer who finds relevance in an age set on breaking the constructs of the past, keeping the codes but changing the values? Pierpaolo Piccioli The answer is both of the above, claims the exhibition itself in a dialogue that is a theatrical curation presented by Qatar Museums and Maison Valentino, as part of Qatar Creates Project. Massimiliano Gioni, the Edlis Neeson Artistic Director at the New Museum, New York, and artistic director of the 55th Venice Biennale, and Alexander Fury, journalist, author, and collector, who is making his curatorial debut, have worked alongside Pierpaolo Piccioli on the exhibit. It’s all about past, present and future and carries on traditions of craft that has been passed down through time at this Roman house. But, rather than using time as curation principle of the exhibition, the focus has been on place: Rome — a city of soul that influences the fashion house to the core. You go in and out of palazzos, squares and courtyards whilst exclusive access to secluded intimate spaces. You enter the exhibition and you’d be elated to the city of Rome, and not the one you see on Instagram these days, but the actual city inhabited by real people, in particular as a home to the atelier of extravagant flourishes of drapery and haute couture — Valentino. Intricately put together on and on, room by room, with stories that are superimposed on Valentino’s signatures by anyone or anything that inspired Garavani and other all the designers who have passed through the house since his passing: it’s an orgy of gorgeousness. The exhibit is more like how the employees of Maison spend their days. From the recreation of the courtyard of the headquarters at Palazzo Mignanelli, where Igor Mitoraj’s massive sculpture Sorgente del Centurione commands the space, the starting point of the exhibition, to the all-white room of the atelier, a black and white room and then the Di Vas room, where photos of celebrities wearing Valentino adorn the walls that surround some of the actual dresses — it really is like you’re on a tour of the House of Valentino. All the spaces created pays homage to the values that Valentino holds closer to its fabric of existence — a sense of intimacy and a very close relationship between the client, maison and the clothes. The sculpture Sorgente del Centurione viaducts the connection of past and present, the fragments of past made into a modern work. The all-white rooms of the atelier have been put together to give a closer look and give one an experience of being at the house of Maison Valentino. The all-white room goes beyond the idea of aesthetics but more functional. It is explained during the tour of the exhibit that atelier is white because of a very functional aspect and that is when the pin drops you have to see it. Apart from a very practical approach, the all-white also symbolises the journey of the couture and custom-made clothes that is started as white toiles The exhibition houses not just haute couture but ready-to-wear pieces as well. Then we make our way to Capriccio Romano, a black and white room—the clothes displayed here also share the same palette—a homage to cinema in a very crisp classical way. Moving images are projected on white dresses suspended from the ceiling that juxtaposes a reality and fantasy in an instant. At Capriccio Romano Valentino’s ‘Of Grace and Light’ Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2020/2021 pieces take the centre stage. There are yards of tafettas and tulle that form the structure and sets the mood. Do not miss out the White and Black polka dot couture piece — the rhinestones and crystals that form the bodice are a real piece of art. The pieces here are a testimony of delicate workmanship. The glossy regalia, Di Vas is the next curation at the exhibition. Here the photos of celebrities wearing Valentino adorn the walls along with some actual dresses, dating back to 1961 Elizabeth Taylor’s Haute Couture ensemble that she wore at the premiere of her film Spartacus. Jane Fonda’s 1961 Oscar, Julia Robert’s 2001 Oscar, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Venice Film Festival, Anne Hathaway’s 2001 Oscars, Angelina Jolie’s Eternal premiere, Lady Gaga’s Venice Film Festival premiere of A Star is Born, Jennifer Lopez’s 2017 Met Gala, and Zendaya’s 2021 Oscar look are also displayed in a sphere. A closer look to awe-impelling fashion ruffles and silhouettes is simply breathtakingly beautiful. In the way the pleats fell, the way the sheer fabric is crafted caterwauls the precious heritage of artisanship at Valentino through years. Like the red carpets for which the dresses in Di Vas room were created, the Parade Room that follows is all Pretty Pink, featuring two exquisite pieces from Valentino’s Prink PP Collection Pret-a-Porter Fall/Winter 2022/2023 — an off-shoulder full length sleek silhouette that Anne Hathaway flaunted at Cannes Film Festival this year and the extravagant tulle that Nicola Peltz adorned at Met Gala this year. Two pieces with totally different structures, placed right next to each other — as evidence to Valentino’s ability to make anything and everything work. The second floor of the exhibit welcomes you to Wunderkammer room and then into the Archeologies that is modelled after a storage space and is interactive for the guests to open the drawers. The idea of the Archives is based on Fury’s own experience of going through the history of Valentino by going through every drawer and corner for historic facts and pieces. The narrative of exhibition moves then to Piccioli and you’re introduced to Piccioli’s process of creating a collection — his photos, drawing and notes that further are turned to reality in an unfiltered way at the Cashiers De Defile. There’s colour popping everywhere that is intense and gorgeous at the same time. You can notice the different skin tones of mannequins used to exemplify different ethnicities and cultures. Valentino Forever is not an image, it’s an experience and the exhibition is indeed a beautiful one. The glorious finale seems fitting considering the designer’s own mission at Valentino — we’re all different, with different styles but Valentino is where all can find a place. Here, in Doha, the timing and space can’t help but resonate with different set of meanings. The exhibition is a veitable escape bunker where the fantasy, dreams, wonders and love for fashion serve to lift the visitor out of the daily strife and drabness of the world outside and gives you just the perfect tinge of haute couture in the most fashionable way.