Slyly enmeshed within the Michel Gaubert–arranged industrial techno that closed this show were the first few twinkling bars of Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.” As Walter Chiapponi came out for his last walk at Tod’s after four years as creative director, he wore a T-shirt that read, very roughly translated: “What is essential is visible to the eye but not to everyone—and it does not reveal everything.”
This Chiapponi adaptation of a Saint-Exupéry line, a challenge to both lazy eyes and set-in-stone brains, has been his creative mantra while treading the path at the house of gommino. Tod’s is a straightforwardly luxurious brand whose founder, Diego Della Valle, wisely chose the name from a 1980 Boston phone book to be as uncomplicatedly appealing as possible. Yet after being recruited to add a different dimension, Chiapponi and his team have become adept at introducing an ineluctable undercurrent of tantalizing emotional tension into the lexicon of a brand whose core product, its Gianni Agnelli–endorsed driving shoe, is a byword for comfort.
Today’s show was held in the midst of a mise-en-scène not yet put together, the Laboratori Scala Ansaldo. Here the set of La Scala’s December production of Don Carlos was still being assembled: A plaster arm rested upon a block of concrete by the runway alongside a single, human-size wing. Chiapponi’s collection was a far more put-together façade—the wardrobe of a sleek, conventional, affluent, and leather-loving woman—that came delicately seasoned with suggestions that what was visible to the eye did not by any measure tell the entire story.
Razor-sharp pleats in knee-length skirts were of a slightly different width and colored in adjacent yet offset colors, at the back and front. Three-buttoned belting details at the hem of waistcoats were left undone. The excellent trench coats, some layered under integrated peacoats, were unusual for being cut symmetrically rather than double-breasted and featured storm-flap fastenings at the neck. Collarless suiting was paired with back-to-front shirting to signal not everything visible to the eye—or the Vogue Runway gallery viewer—was instantly parsable here. An air of severity, even minimalist kink, was emphasized by the incongruously lush utility belts in nappa, from which hung pairs of driving gloves. But then the addition of crochet, whose appealing handcrafted provenance was apparent, served to soften that edge: The overall effect of Chiapponi’s quietly contradictory detailing was intentionally elusive and consequently quietly captivating.
Of his leaving, Chiapponi said: “I’m feeling a mix of emotions. One is about leaving all my people…. I’ve discovered I can be a good leader, and it was like a family. And the other is about seeing the future and having another exciting experience.” He added: “I’m quite worried in this fashion moment. All these people around me, like Sabato [De Sarno], who is my best friend, like Alessandro Michele, these people who all grew up together are having this crazy moment. I don’t know if there is a place for me, but I want to really build up my new experience with something small and very intimate and very emotional even and not just think about money, money, money.”
Or as Saint-Exupéry put it: “Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur.” This designer now plans to follow his heart, spend more time with his friends and his Weimaraners, and travel, before returning to fashion’s crazy fray.
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This article was originally published on Vogue.com.