Valentino

Mario (1928-1991). Fashion designer of footwear and leather prêt-à-porter. He made his mark with his idea of lightening and coloring in unusual shades suede and working it as a yarn, after reducing it to strips. His first shoes with a decolleté and with stiletto heels were made of pink leather, when he set up his own little shop in Naples, continuing his father’s business (1953). A coral flower adorned one of his sandal models the next years. Now, at the Museum of Footwear in Paris, these creations are exhibited as an example of pioneering femininization. When his impulse to experiment led to the application of leather for blouses, jackets, trousers, and blazers, the results were immediately viewed as astonishing. Designed by Muriel Grateau in pastels, in cobalt, green, strawberry, and beaver, the runway presentations in Milan (1977) featured long capes in contrasting silks, barbaric and sumptuous, they revealed both stylistic innovation and artisanal flair. The next challenge was to employ leather for every possible use as a fabric. While fashion designers like Armani, Montana, Versace and Lagerfeld came to work for Mario Valentino, subtle colors were applied to leathers that were as soft and iridescent as silk, embossing simulating the wales of corduroy or the stripes of piqué, hand-fretwork evoking the lace of Sangallo, leather cut into the thinnest strips imaginable and then woven on a loom, to produce Prince of Wales weave effects, along with herringbone and tweed in avant-garde creations.