Well, perhaps not an age of the scallop, but the scallop edge has a new edge, and this, we fear, will be the most copied fashion detail in the coming months, especially the scallop edge seen at Valentino. Make a date with Zara—you’ll soon see it there, if not among the dresses, definitely with the skirts, even in the company of T-shirts. This is not the scallop edge of your mother’s time, those hemlines of repeated less-than-half-of-circle or those along the opening of short jackets on which an oversized button is centred atop each scallop to better emphasise the convex curve of the latter.
Rather, designer Pierpaolo Piccioli employs them boldly— deep, half-a-circle scallop (any craft book will tell you that the shallower the scallop, the easier it is to sew)—as if they are Chinese cloud motifs, only a lot less ornate. And the placements are rather unusual: on one one-arm dress, black on more than half of the front side, the over-sized scallop edge is placed against a narrow strip of white to better accentuate its boldness and graphic appeal. Elsewhere, the scallop edge appears on a bib-front (that runs to the hem of the floor-length dress!), on the hems of a diagonally tiered dress, and as perimeter of a cape. And nowhere does it transmute the outfits into something dreadfully girlish, or garish.
Unencumbered by over-femininity, Mr Piccioli has consistently, since the departure of co-créateur Maria Grazia Chiuri in 2016, forged a rather dreamy vision of today’s woman of means and power. It’s quite a pull away from the Victorian primness that the duo was proposing towards the end of their partnership (“too much fabric, too covered up”, as one make-up artist once said to us), yet it does not shirk from the Valentino-esque vision of moneyed dress-up, or the perceived harmony and contentment alit within those who carry themselves in these clothes.
Today, Mr Piccioli ascribes his aesthetic to “romanticism”. In its post-show communication material, Valentino touts that “romanticism is strength. It places sensibility before rationality, authenticity before stereotypes.” And suggests that “being romantic is a way of living life. Giving form to the freedom of being, subverting clichés.” Non-marketing types may consider all that verbiage, but even if the words don’t give form to the collection, something can be said of Mr Piccioli’s way with putting “authenticity before stereotypes” or “subverting clichés”. He has subscribed to a sense of beauty that harks to an era when magnificence mattered and also takes into consideration what that might mean when seen through a smartphone’s camera lens.
Now that many media outlets are charting “this month’s Instagram winners” to see which brand is getting the most influencer buzz, there is pressure among labels to produce clothes and to style them to generate the optics that today’s online rhapsody is about. Designers ‘project’ clothes so that they can be better seen the way actors project their voices so that they can be better heard. What, to us, is rather amazing is that Mr Piccioli is able to say so much without shouting, without desperately rising above the din that is, quite sadly, current, Instagram-worthy fashion.
That he is able to straddle the online/offline divide (even if that is increasingly narrowing) reflects Mr Piccioli’s natural affinity with the balanced, the proportioned, and the nuanced—a poise of perfection that transcends age. His are clothes that do not veer towards the too-young or the past-their-prime. His is not an overly conscious, try-too-hard attempt at staying on the right side of uncompromisingly now, unlike, say, Karl Lagerfeld, who, for Chanel, must align himself with youth-oriented consumerism or place his finger firmly on the zeitgeist, with the result that’s neither here nor there.
Some people have a very performance-linked relationship with clothes—every drop of the sleeve a gesture, every swish of the skirt a dance, which seems to us rather old Hollywood, during a time when stars not filming in a studio had to look immaculate and ready for the paparazzi. Fashion, in its need to be attention-grabbing, seems to have gone that way since many women no longer dress for fun, for friends, but for the opportunity—self-offered mostly—to cavort before a camera lens.
Valentino does not negate the likelihood that their clothes will support the popularity of the hashtag OOTD, but they are not, as far as we can discern, conceived for the sake of social-media bang. Sure, this season’s oversized, embroidered and appliquéd flowers and Little Red Riding Hood-worthy hoods are the stuff fashion-hungry IG-ers look out for and will cop, but beyond that, there is salute to the dressmaker’s craft and the blessing of the couturier’s eye. Pierpaolo Piccioli, we are quite convinced, is going to steer Valentino to higher ground.