Valentino’s Night-Dreaming in Beijing

As I mentioned right here not a long time ago, Pierpaolo Piccioli is a gift to fashion. On the eve of the designer’s Valentino haute couture show in Beijing’s storied Summer Palace, Piccioli was walking through the improvised couture atelier where most of the house’s tailors and seamstresses have been transplanted from the brand’s Palazzo Mignanelli HQ at the foot of Rome’s Spanish Steps – pointing out the many wonders created by these “alchemists”. The 45 masterworks designed by Piccioli and executed under the direction of Valentino’s brilliant premieres, or heads of the ateliers (Alessandra, Antonietta, Elide and Irene) and their respective teams have been designed especially for this moment and with an eye to the bevy of glamorous, free-spending clients from the region. Piccioli, however, averred that it is “a real Italian haute couture collection—not anything to do with China. It’s important to keep your identity,” he added, “especially when you bring your culture to another world and use it to evaluate the diversities.” But alongside those diversities, Piccioli found dynamic synergies, too. His moodboard was filled with images of the masters of the early Italian Renaissance that he loves – think Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico – alongside photographs taken of the Summer Palace itself, and of portraits of the emperors and empresses who once ruled here, revealing unexpected aesthetic dialogues, “two moments of grandness of old cultures,” as Piccioli explained, “of history and heritage.” Some of the grand ball gowns, sheath dresses, and wide-leg pant ensembles were worked with elaborate intarsia and appliqué techniques to suggest the swirling brocades in a Bronzino portrait. Others took the leitmotifs of Valentino’s ultra-romantic work from the 1970s and 1980s: point d’esprit ruffles, overscale rose prints, and a passion for bows, as well as classic haute couture fabrics including gazar, cigaline, silk velvet, and duchess satins and failles. Here, they were amplified into the extravagant volumes and dimensions that characterize Piccioli’s haute couture collections. Now, let’s talk couture numbers. A dress entirely covered in hundreds of shaded pink bows of various sizes required 350 meters of fabric, for instance; a voluminous ball gown composed of ruffles of cherry red point d’esprit – 600 meters of tulle in total! – took 1,300 hours to complete; and a silvery dress and balaclava were entirely embroidered in more than 32,000 silvery sequins (for the show, beauty maestro Pat McGrath silvered the model’s face to match, creating an out-of-this-world effect). Meanwhile, an intarsia opera coat composed of swirling sections of Oz green sequins, ivory wool, and soft pink crepes (eight different types of fabric in all) worn over wide pants and a turtleneck top in a smaller-scale version of the pattern took a cool six and a half months to complete. Delightful.

All collages by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s / Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent

Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

Hedi Slimane‘s Saint Laurent.

Hate it or love it, but Hedi Slimane’s time at Saint Laurent was one of the most influential moments in fashion this decade. The designer not only completely rebranded the brand (from the name – no more Yves – to the worldwide store appearances), introduced new “brand ambassadors” (Courtney Love, Beck, Kim Gordon, Joni Mitchell AND Marilyn Manson, all photographed by the designer for ad campaigns) and infamously called out the critics just for being honest (the Cathy Horyn beef!), but also polarised the fashion industry into two camps: Hedi fanatics, who go crazy for his Celine today, and Hedi sceptics. The designer implemented a youthful, rock & roll and very L.A. mood to the label, sending down baby-doll dresses, vintage-looking floral frocks, super-mini skirts and heavy boots with the attitude of the most rebellious girl in town. One of the most memorable collections he “designed” for the house? Definitely the autumn-winter 2013 show. It was inspired with the lifestyle of Venice Beach, California, and nodded to Yves’ The Scandal Collection from 1971, which was called “notorious” and “disgusting” by its guests (but in the end became iconic). As Tim Blanks pointed out about this Slimane collection, “almost nothing looked new”. Sloppy cardigans, plaid shirts and sparkly dresses accessorized with strings of pearls and black bows. While grunge was long dead, Slimane brought it back to life, and what’s the most ironic – the entire collection was sold out, even though the price tags were far, far from the thrift store originals. Of course Marc Jacobs’ final Perry Ellis collection was first, but Slimane appeared to be in the right place and right time with this line-up. I’m still on fence with Slimane’s era at YSL, but one thing’s sure: it was much more disruptive (and naughty) than Anthony Vaccarello’s work today for tha maison.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s / The Row’s Minimalism

Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

The Row‘s minimalism.

Looking back at the 2010s, it seems to me that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are the ultimate owners of minimalism. With their sensivity for top knotch quality and craftsmanship, it’s no surprise that The Row is globally renowned among the richest women who, rather than drown in Gucci, have similar preference for clean lines, the comfort of soft cashmere and well, have nowhere else to go since Phoebe Philo left Céline (ok, there’s Lemaire, Jil Sander and Bottega Veneta, but… still, they choose The Row). Their collections don’t surprise, but warm your heart. Coats of the most perfect volume and silhouette. An over-sized ecru turtleneck-dress from the best alpaca yarn you can imagine. Masculine tailoring, beauutifully sculpted at the waist. Timeless, crisp shirting that’s getting better and better while wearing it. Eveningwear that’s pure refiniment and elegance without even one embroidery or print. You don’t expect newness with The Row, except for some unexpected lining detail or an antique embellishment on the bags – so, basically details you will notice only when the clothes arrive on the rack. Other than incredible collections the Olsens staged in New York (and in a French chateau that’s 45 minutes outside Paris back in 2015), the sisters created some of the most beautiful retail spaces (see them here) and an equally magnificent menswear line.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Statements Pieces. Balenciaga Resort 2020

Balenciaga released its resort 2020 look-book just in time when the clothes start to hit the stores. Demna Gvasalia‘s pre-collections for the maison aren’t as spectacular as the main shows (the spring-summer 2020 collection we’ve seen last month was one of his best to date!), but they sum up the label’s statement pieces: Balenciaga wardrobe “basics” (like tailoring with Cristobal Balenciaga’s couture volumes), the best-selling apparel and key bags. What else? Outsize parkas with their cheekbone-grazing collars, easy-wearing printed tea dresses in souvenir prints, XXL pajama sets… all this in the least matching colours you can imagine. But somehow, everything works together more than well. The look-book-opening coat is stamped with the Balenciaga logo in the familiar block print, but even without it one can identify the sloping shoulders, buttoned collar, and boxy, exaggerated fit as signature Gvasalia. And what’s my personal favourite from the line-up? The leather blouson-jacket in bold green, as pictured above.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.