Friday, November 24, 2006

BIG FOOT and the Big V

“That Anna Bayle…she is so beautiful, but she has feet like boats!”

Valentino with seamstresses at the Spanish Steps, Rome

(A comment made by Valentino to Kirat, the famous Indian model.)

I went on my second assignment as a beauty writer for (the first internet fashion trade paper) to Valentino’s party to celebrate the launch of his new fragrance, Rock and Rose. November 16, 2006.
At the party, I saw Valentino, Giancarlo Giammetti- his partner and Carlos Souza-his PR director. They were happy to see me, as I was happy to see them. All of a sudden, the grandeur and elegance of the Rome couture collections all came back to me.

As a model, you aspire to get the big ones. You cannot get any bigger than Valentino in Rome.

You are sent to the house of Valentino to do your fitting. I remember going up the Spanish steps from Piazza di Spagnia and the House of Valentino is a couple of doors down to the right of the Spanish steps in via Gregoriana. The entrance already intimidates one; all white façade, a glass door and the door handle is the Valentino logo in shiny black.

Once you enter the atelier, you are stripped of all your identity, really. You take off all your clothes and jewelry, and leave all your belongings behind in one room. It is a ritual that never fails to amaze me – the transformation in me is palpable. You put on the silk Valentino stockings, the Valentino shoes made especially for you and a single crisp white cotton robe. You put your hair back into a ponytail. Even before you put his clothes on, you already feel like a million dollars.

You go to the make-up room where you will find Rex, one of the best make-up artists at that time. Rex will take his time transforming you into a beauty. You will become a Valentino girl with the flawless skin, heavy eye shadows and the perfect lips of that season.

Then you enter another room populated by the white-robed atelier women; your looks or garments for the show are all lined up. The house of Valentino is probably one of the most organized houses that I have ever worked for. Everything is ready for a model’s fitting and the schedule for fittings work like clockwork. You start with the coats for day and work yourself into evening garments.

There is a mock-up runway and Valentino sits at the end of the runway. Some photographs are taken. There is not much to change with a look at Valentino’s. The accessories are all laid out –the hat, the gloves, the jewelry, and the bags – all Valentino and they all work to complement the garment. Taste at the house of Valentino is a given: elegance is the stamp.

The whole process (make-up time, waiting time, dress rehearsal) takes from an hour to 2 hours, depending on whether some models are late. A model’s professionalism is key – as you are capable of holding up everyone’s schedule. But once you start fitting, the dress rehearsal only takes 20 minutes of that time.

You leave the atelier and this time I take the short cut down to the Piazza. I love this route going back to my hotel, as I get to go through the house of Valentino, where there is a garden and sculptures. You get to ride the elevator but when you get down to the Piazza Mignanelli, you have this marvelous gigantic head in bronze- a sculpture by the Polish artist, Igor Mitoraj.

The clues are all around me, as I enjoy the works of art in and around the house of Valentino. ELEGANCE and OPULENCE.

Valentino is a power in Rome; I experienced his influence, first hand, when during one season, I got stuck at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. I was so busy working that I always leave the responsibility of all my travel arrangements to my agents. I left from a Parisian fashion show to fly directly to Rome on a late flight - as my first fittings and shows are on the next day. I arrived at the immigration desk in full make-up and one of the young officials decided to play God and refused my Philippine visa. I was testy, as I have been working the whole day. “Fine”, I barked. “I will go back to Paris.”
Let them sort this out. I was not worried; I just wanted to sleep. Guess what, the flight I was on was the last flight of the evening and since I was not my charming self, the immigration officer even decided that I could not leave the airport, nor talk to my agent (no cell phones then).

I could see my agent through the glass partition and he was trying to reassure me by making hand signals. He stayed with me for 3 hours till 1:00 a.m., a thick glass pane between us, while his assistants were making phone calls everywhere to spring me out of the temporary jail I was in. But he could not do anything at such short notice: it was late and all his government official contacts were unreachable. I had to sleep in the airport. I was so exhausted but I had to do it – because if I didn’t, I would be a wreck for all the couture shows I was suppose to do the next day. At 6:00 am when the airport opened, the immigration officers let me leave the airport. I think all it took was one call from Valentino.

Valentino’s show is something for the books. For a start, once you put your garments, you cannot….. I repeat – you cannot bend your elbows anymore. Why? Because the garments will get creased. Of course, when doing the shows, you are really better off not sitting down or moving around too much. But in this house, you have to keep your hands down by your sides.

The other unique thing is the models who have big busts are all strapped down with white gauze. In the context of couture, during my time and probably to this day, big breasts are considered vulgar. Couture is about neat elegant lines. That is the reason not all models can do couture. It takes a special kind of girl to be a couture girl.

The beautiful German models with big bosoms are grumbling to themselves, after the show. I don’t blame them- I am sure it really hurts, like having a mammogram. I have empathy for them, as I sometimes wear shoes 2 sizes too small (never at Valentino where the shoes are custom made). Pain comes with the territory.

I bet, if I was not a good model, I’d be out of the model lineup. My crime being – FEET TOO BIG! Maybe, big feet are not elegant. I can’t change my foot size, but surely, I can change the way I conduct myself – with elegance.

The most vivid memory I have of Valentino clothes are his red couture gowns - precious masterpieces, even though it is his white collection that made him famous in the 60’s. I am interviewed often and asked who my favorite designer is. I cannot name one, for there are many great ones.

But if I had the money - I would like to be dressed in Valentino sometimes, because nobody does RED like Valentino.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes . . .! Anna recalls the intrigue and beauty of a models life in couture with such clarity I felt as if I were there again not dressing in a gown but in the suit tailored just for me in my first big show!

I like that Anna points out her big feet . . . most models as successful and beautiful as Anna have what may be thought of as physical imperfections, Big feet, slightly hooked noses or a long neck not exactly proportionate to their heights but, these are also often the features that give careers strength! Own your flaws and dress your perfections . . .do this and you too will have your big day.

Also on "power", I just want to say that not just in Italy but around the globe, fashion's elite carry a certain power like a magic pass card which gains them favor where others find themselves powerless. Not everyone uses this gift with nobility and grace as we often see but . . . true power and its use by people such as Valentino's in aiding Anna is born of respect, admiration and appreciation for ones art,pride in culture and self respect shown therein . . . .to be blessed to walk in such presence, in such light is an honor in which one should present themselves in the same "light", act with the same grace. Be a "Role model" not a clichy, be real in a world of paint and paper and you too may have your day in "RED" as did the beautiful Anna Bayle!

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey anna,

ummm... what size are your feet anyway...???


juan miguel

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anna et Valentino....two entities quite inexplicable yet ITS WAY UP THERE idea IDEALIZED...such partnership lays out what will become nowadays referred to as "the red carpet" impact...and all those celebrities try to recreate such imagery of a designers' living Goddess or Muse perpetual...fleeting as it may seem...such collaborations preserves highlights in the Grand moments of fashion....until now I SEEK such feel....for lately it has become the model (and her antics..imagine Janice Dickinson...such character I love but very wrong at the same timelessness appeal) or Alexander Mcqueen without Kate Moss...not quite the same...

7:15 PM  

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