What I’ve always loved about Pierpaolo Piccioli is the intellectual depth he brings to his work. While most fashion designers bring life to the aesthetic, Piccioli looks toward history, art, philosophy, architecture for the stories and inspirations that will ultimately shape his latest collection. He is not just someone who has great style and craftsmanship. He is multifaceted, and his acumen comes out in his works. I would love to see his process in developing a creation from the inkling of an idea to the final product.
Piccioli likes to stick to romanticism with the classics in his sartorial fare, like the collection based on Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, or Greek mythology, or the vatican, but lately he’s been testing his skills. How far can we push into territory unknown? Dissect it, inspect it, reinvent it, rebirth it into a hybrid of couture? The most extreme example I saw of his effort in this was his unexpected study in hip-hop.
So it was no surprise when his Fall 2019 RTW collection for Valentino continued with a more street vibe, looking to The Movement for the Emancipation for Poetry, an underground group of poets who use subversive actions (which they call “attacks”) to post the poetry on city walls and public locations to spread their reach. It kind of reminds me of V for Vendetta.
From there, it was a collaboration as he knew it must be with this starting line. The network included poets like Robert Montgomery, Greta Bellamacina, Yrsa Daley-Ward and Mustafa the Poet, as well as Undercover’s Jun Takahashi who collaborated on the visuals of the collection, and I believe they looked to Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss sculpture, for a loosely-based rendering.
What came of this melding of the minds was a surprising series of pop-art-ish prints with roses and deep night skies with bright constellations, sometimes scripting messages like
The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive.” There were many looks where this script didn’t appear, but they were hidden inside.”
““You thought I was too dark until I stretched you into a galaxy.”
“There’s a forever beyond the sky. I think we should go there tonight.”
These were often centrally themed within the pop prints, but I think they worked best when placed along the cuff line of jackets as a subtle, yet striking detail. Sometimes these cryptic little messages weren’t printed or embroidered on the garment for all to see, but were little secret messages for just the wearer, hidden just inside the boot, the bag, the jacket. Yasss.
The coat with the oversized pockets created as rose petal heads with a glimpse into space and the line of poetry is just fantastic. Give it to me now. I want it yesterday. A black flounce dress took a turn toward classicism with an Etruscan era black and white rendition of the kiss print surrounded by full color butterflies, the poetry scrolling along the hemline. Is this even Valentino? Just when I was thinking I don’t even recognize it, along came an ethereal nude tulle gown with the same motif.
There were some serious monochrome moments too. Minimalist and simple maybe, but construction and timelessness show no mercy here. Mini tunic dresses and capes give us undertones of mod with a strong finish of A Handmaid’s Tale. Then in a total about face, Valentino gave us in-your-face busy prints on high-neck dresses and a lace jumpsuit that rounded out the visual beat of the collection.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Valentino without a series of dreamy moments, this time in tunic gowns and my favorite ethereal frothy tulle medium. While this might be the bread and butter of Valentino, and obviously gets my attention, it’s actually the former looks that stretched Piccioli and his team the most.