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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

WATCH: Imperfection is celebrated in Valentino’s first Tokyo show

Sarah Maisey reports from Valentino's pre-fall 2019 presentation in Japan

Pierpaolo Piccioli unveiled his pre-fall 2019 collection for Valentino in Japan on Tuesday night, and The National caught the action from the front row.

Set in a vast concrete space in downtown Tokyo, the show represented two firsts for the Italian fashion brand. It was the first time the house has shown in Tokyo, and the first time it sent both womenswear and menswear down the same runway.

The designer presented 90 looks, each inspired by the uniquely Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, whereby flaws and imperfections are regarded as beautiful in their own right. This is upheld in the tradition of repairing broken objects with gold so that the break itself becomes precious.

"For me, this is very modern and the opposite of the idea of beauty held in western cultures, of perfection, symmetry,” Piccioli explains. "I feel today it is very important for me to get Valentino from a world of exclusivity to inclusivity, and embrace different cultures and beauty. I wanted to start a conversation between western culture, my culture, and the Japanese one.”

This conversation was about frills and ruffles left creased, elements left undone and a precise asymmetry that nodded to Japan. In the skillful hands of Piccioli, this was no hackneyed recycling of tourist fodder, but a deeply reflective, sophisticated and, dare I say it, dreamy discourse.

The show was opened and closed by Kaia Gerber, and the looks came in blocks of colour, most dramatically in the house shade of fiery Valentino red, worn head to toe, right down to the accessories. Of course, Valentino excels at gowns and when these arrived they were breathtaking. Great swaths of froth carved into pod-like shapes, or loose frills tumbling down the backs of gowns, they were romantic, beautiful and spellbinding.

For the finale, the models swept onto the runway before halting in single file. Standing arms-length away, the impulse to reach out and touch these amazing pieces was overwhelming. And, as we were given the chance to see the workmanship up close, boxes opened above our heads and rose petals - red, of course - spilled out, blanketing the runway.

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