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Valentino: How Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have successfully reshaped the house of Valentino during their tenure is quite remarkable. They’ve defined and developed their vision of demure bohemia and modest chic to a level of consistency that continues to resonate beautifully and feel special without begging for biannual reinvention. So it was for spring.

Dual wellsprings of national pride, the designers often cite Italy as their big-picture inspiration, extracting something specific, but nonessential, to the resulting product: Here, the Grand Tour, the 18th-century tradition of British post-university young men of privilege completing their studies with a sight-seeing trip through Europe. Naturally, Chiuri and Piccioli concentrated on the Italian leg of the tour, which typically included Rome, Venice, Naples and possibly a beach excursion. Ultimately, it gave them license to take a roving approach to the collection.

“It’s a journey, but a reflection about what we are,” said Piccioli backstage. “It’s a release of joy and stream of consciousness; fragments of memory.”

A fantasy travel wardrobe for a fabulous itinerary, the lineup included roundly tailored linen jackets, dresses in Baroque scarf prints and florals that looked like stained glass, white eyelet for the naif and fanciful seaside motifs such as starfish and sea horses on gracefully dramatic gowns fit for a black-tie beach occasion. Everything flaunted the incredible craftsmanship of the Valentino ateliers.

Like a cinematic flashback, much of the collection was cast in soft focus, the dreamy nostalgia captured with a breathtaking group of rainbow pastels: curved chevron panels in pink, lavender and pale-green embroidered linen done in laser-cut eyelet on dresses and a skirt worn with a sweet sweater in the same pattern. Within that range, Chiuri and Piccioli’s signature silhouette — the slender, chastely cut dress — was newly sexualized as a pinafore cut straight and narrow down the front and open in back, leaving the sides elegantly exposed. Recurring through the show in many different fabrications, the alluring apron was one of the collection’s many subtle surprises.

Photos: GETTY Images

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