For Pierpaolo Piccioli, the meaning of creativity in this moment rhymes with punk gestures and romantic acts of purpose and strength. His fall collection was staged in the empty spaces of historic Milan’s Piccolo Teatro, closed to the public since the beginning of the pandemic. “The fact that we decided to have it reopened, albeit just temporarily, it was a sort of a punk act,” he said at a press conference held in the darkness of the auditorium. “What we missed in the pandemic was above all the sense of sharing and of communality that culture gives us—not so much pasta and pizza.”
Valentino’s shows are visually intense experiences, layered with emotions and extravagance. The pandemic seems to have clarified and delineated Piccioli’s mindset. His approach feels direct, personal, and authentic, less filtered through the arcane references that mood board narratives often hazily convey. He calls this process “radical.”
For AW21, the collection was concise and sharp. Hems were drastically shortened with an almost tangible gesture of slashing. “It’s an act of fashion,” he explained. “ I was looking for a space open to new possibilities, like the slashes Fontana inflicted on the canvas to find new dimensions behind it.”
Rendered in single-minded, stark black and white, with occasional pops of muted gold, it felt like the point of convergence between the racé couture genius of Valentino, which Piccioli has mastered so flawlessly and the new proposition of an abbreviated, terse silhouette pertinent for today. A daywear assortment of beautifully cut short wool capes (the couture outerwear template par excellence) was the collection’s pivot, worn with bare legs and elegant stilettos “for sensuality,” as Piccioli underlined.
Couture-inflected, high-brow versions of no-gender punk signifiers tied the women’s and men’s lines together. Nets were a recurring theme—enlarged in a diamond pattern on a cashmere sweater worn as minidress; elongated in a cut-out cashmere duster over a crisp white shirt and black short; and rendered in the second-skin high-collared turtlenecks worn throughout the collection and made with budellini, an atelier technique. “I wanted the ésprit couture to be clearly felt in the collection,” said Piccioli, “but without any hint of nostalgia or redundancy.” His need for elegant synthesis didn’t come across as a soulless, simplified reduction of codes. Piccioli’s sensibility is way too empathetic for that; he values humanity above all else. He was probably born romantic : “It’s the radical act of having the strength to be who you are; that’s what I mean by romanticism today. It’s a subjective, almost anarchic gesture, assertive of one’s own identity—exactly like punk.”
This article was originally published on Vogue.com