Each season before the Valentino couture show, Pierpaolo Piccioli hosts reporters at a press conference that is actually a mini défilé; he talks through the collection’s standouts, taking pride in the artistry of his Roman atelier. Seeing up close the sublime details that give every piece a hint of the preternatural is a privilege; at these levels of execution, couture is fashion’s most noble expression. Not all of this week’s collections are created equal—Valentino’s is certainly haute.
Piccioli is syncing up couture to the times, while keeping its ritualistic mystique intact. Today’s collection was steeped in the modern lexicon of fashion, but staged in the gilded salons in Place Vendôme, the Maison’s Paris address since 1998, it replicated the intimate atmosphere of défilés past. While proximity amplified the emotional temperature and the sensorial delight of getting close to each passage, “you don’t have to feel the weight of the technique and of the handmade, because ultimately couture is about the illusion of effortlessness,” Piccioli said. “The technique must disappear so as not to lose the magic—a magician remains a magician only until he reveals his secrets.”
The collection didn’t have preposterous narratives or abstruse subtexts, instead it read as an extensive experimentation (Piccioli called it “an instinctive expression of the urge for creation”) on shapes, volumes, silhouettes, and cuts. Revised war1eldrobe fundamentals such as blazers, masculine coats, hoodies, and parkas were translated into “couture objects” via idiosyncratic, almost paradoxical pairings with traditional couture templates, that Piccioli called “traces of couture past.”
A bouillonée minidress in emerald green silk faille was worn under a structured, oversized blazer in mustard techno gabardine, while a poufy ballgown in turquoise taffeta was paired with a boxy hoodie in khaki green gabardine, trimmed with stand-up feathers. Elsewhere, the allure of an impeccably easy mohair coat in a soft shade of rust stood in contrast to the haute pink of a slender bustier dress made of almost impalpable silk chiffon, cut in such a way that it could be wrapped around the body in a single sensuous gesture.
Piccioli believes that couture is the ultimate privileged space of authorship for a designer, a place where the obsessive quest for perfection and drive for experimentation can be given free rein. Yet being a Roman sensorialist, his approach is far from the sharp, hard edges of modernism or conceptualism. Rather it’s infused with the humanity and charm that permeates the ambience of his atelier; his virtuoso talent for chromatic assonances channels a sort of vibrational energy that seems to elicit a response that isn’t just visual, but rather emotional. Ultimately, Piccioli’s fine sentiment for couture appeals to the senses—there’s no narrative more powerful than that.
1 / 12
2 / 12
3 / 12
4 / 12
5 / 12
6 / 12
7 / 12
8 / 12
9 / 12
10 / 12
11 / 12
12 / 12
This story was originally published on Vogue.com.