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Valentino returns to Paris’ Les Beaux-Arts with modern twist; Burton bids farewell at McQueen

PARIS (AP) — Valentino took a sentimental journey to Les Beaux-Arts this Sunday, revisiting the prestigious Parisian art school where its founder, Valentino Garavani, was once a student.

Dive into the highlights of this Spring/Summer 2024 ready-to-wear collections from Paris, including the end of an era at Alexander McQueen as its lauded designer Sarah Burton presented her final show.

MODERN BEAT IN HISTORIC HALLS: VALENTINO REIMAGINES SPRING

Amid the backdrop of Mannerist statues and the names of great artists gracing the storied walls of Les Beaux-Arts, where Garavani, 91, once honed his craft, the runway was — in contrast — unmistakably contemporary. Strategically positioned boxes filled with rocks, sand, and earth transformed into platforms for a troupe of sinewy, scantily clad contemporary dancers.

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Designer Pierpaolo Piccioli’s collection was a vivid “celebration of femininity and creativity.” Bursting onto the scene were fresh, sporty minidresses adorned with intricate white florals and foliage. The elegance of an open tuxedo baring flesh, and the simplicity of flowing silk caped dresses made a statement, but there was a sense of familiarity. A pastel gray cape minidress captured attention with its minimalist charm. A chainmail disco mesh-dress shimmered and revealed inches of body.

Yet, the dynamic dance performances often drew eyes away from the fashion. Could it be that the collection, while undeniably modern, needed that extra dose of novelty to truly captivate?

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While Piccioli’s designs were a testament to Valentino’s evolving aesthetic, some elements felt reminiscent of past collections or even lacking in fresh ideas, a criticism that’s been leveled by critics at the designer in the past. Nonetheless, spring marked a beautiful blend of the brand’s intrinsic elegance and a desire to pare down styles to their essentials.

BURTON’S SWAN SONG: ECHOING MCQUEEN’S GENIUS, CARVING HER LEGACY

As the Parisian runway glinted under the weight of expectation, Sarah Burton, with a profound respect for legacy and an unmistakable innovative touch, presented her magnum opus for Alexander McQueen Saturday night. Her task had always been titanic – to step into shoes left empty by the enigmatic genius of Lee Alexander McQueen.

The fashion maestro’s unexpected departure wasn’t just a personal loss; it marked the end of an era of theatrical, emotion-laden masterpieces. But Burton, rather than just filling a void, lit it up. She wielded her tapestry of design, interweaving McQueen’s audacious spirit with her softer, more feminine aesthetic. This dance of duality was evident in her farewell collection, where each piece told its story. The slashed bodices, the evocative blood-red laced spines, and the influence of Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz’s work showcased an artistry that was both fierce and tender.

The shimmer of glossy leather corsets contrasted with the ethereal shredded gossamer skirts, while other designs teased at deconstruction, with trailing embroidery and dripping silver organza that echoed McQueen’s rebellious early days.

No detail was left untouched. From the profound artistry of Kate Middleton’s wedding gown – a garment that transcended royal expectations – to her final collection’s poignant motifs, Burton proved her mettle time and again. The iconic rose, emblematic open-heart embroidery, and the magnetic close by Naomi Campbell in a sculpted silver bugle bead dress, all converged in a collection that was both homage and evolution.

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And as the last piece sashayed down the runway, the room — filled with powerful editors and actresses like Cate Blanchett and Elle Fanning — rose in a rousing standing ovation, not just for Burton’s final act but for a legacy beautifully continued and enriched under her stewardship.