Limitless. Valentino AW20 Couture

And again, Valentino‘s Pierpaolo Piccioli is the king of haute couture, even after months of confinement that could basically cancel the entire season. Entitled “The Performance: of Grace and Light, a dialogue between Pierpaolo Piccioli and Nick Knight,” the presentation played as a hybrid digital / physical event staged in a darkened void on the famed Cinecitta movie lot in Rome for local press and friends of the house. In a Zoom press conference, Piccioli explained he’d conceptualized the 16-look collection as “an extreme response” to the tough circumstances of lockdown; a determination to overcome the technical problems of socially-distanced working in the Valentino atelier and the impossibility of creating prints and lavish embroideries. “I didn’t want to feel the limitations. Couture is made for emotions, dreams,” he said. “It was super-emotional for us all to be here together to win this challenge. A moment I will never forget.” First came a pre-recorded screening of an artily glitchy video by Knight, in which projections of flowers and feathers played over meters-long dresses worn by women who appeared to hover in an aerial circus scenario. Cut to real time: curtains drew back to reveal the models, standing perched on ladders in a static tableau, their dresses – some of Pierpaolo’s biggest couture hits, elongated to the extremes, and revealed to be all-white – cascading to the floor, videoed live. INCREDIBLE. The idea of taking the show to Cinecitta, Rome’s “factory of dreams,” led the designer to add the concept of “the magic of early cinema,” evoking the silent movie imagery of with silver sequins and waterfalls of glittering fringe. To make it even more ethereal, Piccioli commissioned recordings from FKA twigs – her extraordinary voice soared poignantly as the models swung from trapezes and floated through Knight’s digital performance. Fashion communication on multi-platform formats has taken surreal twists and turns as designers have tried to conquer the dreadful problems of the pandemic. In Piccioli’s case, the surrealism was right there, embodied in the theatrical form of some of the most gorgeous dresses the world has ever seen.

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.

Italian Summer. Valentino Resort 2021

This is the ideal summer state of mind: Mariacarla Boscono dancing, laughing and sun-bathing at the Italian sea-side, wearing Valentino and being photographed by her friend – and the brand’s creative director – Pierpaolo Piccioli. Italy was the European country that was first tragically hit by COVID-19, and to many it seemed that good days aren’t coming back anytime soon. Now the country seems to gradually revive and the dream Italian summer is back on track. Optymism is winning. “I never stopped working,” Piccioli told Vogue during a Zoom call. “I profoundly love what I do; this is my passion, something fundamental for me – it isn’t just work.” The resort 2021 collection is the byproduct of the time spent alone drawing and painting, while remaining connected with his team. “I wanted to convey spontaneity and truth, even imperfection—but it’s the feel of human imperfection you long for right now,” he explained. “The collection was born out of flat drawings – paper and pencil, no styling, no mood board, just researching on paper shapes that linger in your head. A pure fashion process, as it should be done.” The human quality of creativity is paramount to Piccioli’s practice. He has imbued the rarefied world of couture with emotional values – exposing and revealing its craft and handmade processes, and shining a light on his team of seamstresses and artisans as essential players behind his fabulous creations. This center still firmly holds. “I wanted [to communicate] something even more personal, very close to myself. Conveying a sense of intimacy, a sentiment of individual connection, of emotion. I decided to photograph the collection myself because it seemed more coherent in this moment to send out a message with no filters, no manipulation, no other interpretation or mediation. I didn’t want the usual glamour of a fashion shoot,” he continued. “What I was interested in focusing on was what I’ve missed most in this confinement – the simple feeling of human connection, of shared love and friendship. This is what I wanted to bring about in my images.” Not surprisingly, simplicity is the collection’s key word. “It’s a radical simplicity though,” reflected Piccioli. “I wanted to be even more radical, in that the simplicity I’ve tried to achieve in shapes, volumes, and construction comes at the end of a process of resolved complexities. It’s a study and a project on cut, proportions, balance. Reducing and subtracting to reach the core, something essential and pure – but not more banal. Simple, not simplified.” There’s an ease and a fluidity of movement, a feel for freedom and effortlessness exuding from the lean silhouettes of caftans, elongated shift dresses, capes, and separates. Defined by strong, solid colors inspired by Mark Rothko’s chromatically powerful palette, pure shapes were infused with a vibrant, joyful flair. A few prints inspired by 18th-century tapestries were rendered as inconspicuous abstract strokes of color, as if they were just traces of memories, or shadows of the decorative motifs’ former selves. And what’s more special than a dear friend you’ve known and loved for years? “Mariacarla and I, we go back a long way,” he said. A spontaneous energy radiates from the images, shot by Piccioli in the natural surroundings of his home: a lake where he goes swimming; a sulfur mine where Pier Paolo Pasolini shot some scenes from his 1964 movie Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo. There’s a palpable sense of intimacy and of a familiar bond between photographer and model. Again, individuality and humanity are the pivots around which the collection, which was designed to appeal to both genders, came alive.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Look(s) – Valentino AW18 Couture

What if Henri Matisse met Valentino‘s Pierpaolo Piccioli? The designer’s joyful autumn-winter 2018 couture collection, with some prints and embroideries inspired by the French painter’s work, was all about the fantastically bold colour palette that Henri would definitely applaud. And clothes that make you dream!

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.