With the opening of the new fashion exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum thrusting Italian glamour into the spotlight, I found myself revisiting what I feel to be some key moments in Italian style — not necessarily the most iconic, but just a few images/designs/people/sparks that seem to encapsulate some truths in regards to the Italian aesthetic that has made it so influential. To begin with, my thoughts went to Valentino — while obviously one of the best known and most successful Italian designer and couturier on the global stage, his skills extend far beyond the iconic red evening gown. Capable of designing a full wardrobe of the chicest clothes imaginable, Valentino's gifts extend to connecting with the most talented men and women across all fields — while they often became his clients and muses, it is perhaps most intriguing when they collaborated together. In the March 1970 issue of Vogue Italia, Valentino published a twenty page advertisement of illustrations by Paul Jasmin. The Montana-native attempted to become an actor in Hollywood before moving to Paris in the late-1950s. Working as a painter and illustrator, Jasmin met Valentino at a party in the sixties — this large collaborative folio of illustrations grew out of their encounter.
Jasmin's linear and elegant drawings place Valentino's chic models into a reduced world of topiary gardens and enigmatic landscapes. Large-brimmed hats and low-heeled shoes set off ensembles that are at once conservative and covered, yet include bohemian patterns and elements. From morning till dusk, the illustrated ladies glide through the pristine fantasy garden, reminiscent of those at the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, near Valentino's home city of Rome. While Jasmin has gone on to a successful career as a fashion and portrait photographer, his illustration work for Valentino truly appears to capture the innate glamour of Italian high fashion's day-to-night dressing.