This is definitely new.
Newness was a focal point for Pierpaolo Piccioli on his latest collection for Valentino. But, he notes, there is really nothing that is actually new anymore in the world of fashion. It’s therefore the job of a good designer to reimagine what has been seen and done into something inspiring, that can be seen in a different way.
And really, this is Piccioli in a nutshell. He’s an avid historian with a vast love for art, architecture, and culture. It shows season after season in his work – first with Maria Grazia Chiuri (I still miss the two of them together), and now on his own. So I think in a way, all of his collections must in some way show this mindset already.
This time, with reimagined newness as the foundation, he chose to move away from the total ethereal romanticism Valentino has been known for, in an attempt to balance the needs of today’s buyer with practical daywear options. So really, this is perhaps more about Piccioli realizing what is new (the market, the buyer’s needs/wants) rather than making us see a new concept in his collection. It’s OK, Pierpaolo. I understand. It’s hard to let go of some of your dreamlike masterpieces to make room for function over form.
But let’s not kid ourselves, this isn’t a collection for any basic B. Two motifs were selected and intertwined – Victoriana and the Memphis design movement of the 1980’s. And the humanities nerd in me is really excited about this. So how in the world did this shape up, and in a Valentino hand? Dresses, modest in silhouette that billowed with weighty weaves, silks, and velvets. Victorian high necks with long sleeves were a staple at mostly midi lengths, while the Memphis design could be most heavily found in the playful prints that popped in and out of the collection.
The runway started in a black and white color palette, which had a strong impact. There are busy Memphis patterns on an ankle length dress with lavender pleats climbing all the way up to the collar, and a knee length cape dress with three different prints making up the skirt, bodice, and cape. And I just feel an urge to start coloring. How wrong would that be?! Could Valentino provide washable fabric markers with these dresses so we can play and wash away?!
From there, it was a swift dash into full color, with vibrant and romantic moments of lace and ruffles mixed with 80’s art madness, like the patchwork coat with symbols, numbers, and hands. The same patchwork style showed itself on a floor sweeping halter gown, a knit sweater over a pleat skirt, and a definitely 80’s vibed brown tone version in a couple of dresses and a fur coat.
A crochet dress with a sewn-in belt moved beautifully under a graceful longline coat. A black high-neck chiffon dress had robin egg blue gladiator faux flaps running its entire length, including the sleeves and neckline with a bead and pipe design that, tempered perfectly, could come from both inspiration sources. It was immediately followed by a frothy lace knee-length cape dress in sky blue and pink, embellished with black floral vines that cascade down from the neckline. LOVE. And then a blue lace was actually made in the shape of the Memphis design print. Um, stick a fork in me. Just hand over the dresses and nobody gets hurt.
And the simple looks were just as powerful. Weighty silk dresses in pink, black, and canary fell to the ankle and moved with a fantastic sweep as the model walked. A leather A-line midi dress showed off the design house’s versatility, with a pleated and sheer-covered shoulder, anchored by beaded Memphis design appliqués, and pleated godets.
Valentino‘s famous dream gowns arrived at the end of the runway show, with the usual romantic, ethereal elements like ruffles, airy movement, and shimmery beading. But this season, there was a new focus on playing with velvet and lace insets as design elements. Shape and silhouette was highlighted and complemented by a faux empire belt made of lace while the bust was covered in triangles if crimped chiffon, the middle plunge covered in cutout chiffon ruffles. Simple, but so intricate, and absolutely gorgeous on the body.
Every season I find more reasons to love Piccioli and Valentino.