Valentino Makes A Statement

And it will drive the anti-vaxxer nuts

Fashion do want to be counted when it comes to making a social/political stand. Valentino, for one, not only knows their position on the divisive issue of COVID-19 vaccination, they are willing to express it, and, concurrently do good. Taking advantage of the cool-after-summer season, they’ve released a black, made-in-Italy, cotton hoodie with the word “Vaccinated” stretched across the chess, above which the unmistakable V-logo is centred. There is nothing to the hoodie really, other than what it might literally say about the wearer. With the vaccinated more appreciated in social circles and welcomed in dine-in-allowed eateries, knowing that they have received the two doses of either the mRNA or viral vector vaccines without turning on their Trace Together app might be a boon to those who’d benefit from the knowledge or be able to complete a professional duty.

Launched on the Valentino website today, the hoodie is shown on the label’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, who looks relaxed in a rattan chair, placed in a garden. According to Valentino’s corporate comms, the designer was “captivated” by an identical hoodie conceived by “the American pop culture sensation Cloney” (a multi-disciplinary collective based in LA, headed by one Duke Christian George III) that he ordered all that was available (five, it is said) and gave them to his friends, among them Lady Gaga, who dutifully wore the V-logoed version and posted a video on Instagram. Clearly Nicki Minaj of the “swollen balls anti-vaxx claim” wasn’t on the receiving end of this messaged top.

Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli proudly promoting his vaccination status

But, apparently, Valentino only told part of the story. According to media reports, Cloney “cloned” Valentino in their hoodies by replacing the V in ‘Vaccinated’ with Valentino’s V and the rest of the letters in the brand’s serif font. Mr Piccioli spotted the item on IG and magnanimously bought them to gift his friends, seeing the potential good that could come out of this hoodie. So rather than sue Cloney, as big brands such as Adidas are wont and eager to, he chose to work with them, pairing the couture brand in his charge with another closer to street that stars such as Justin Beiber and wife Hailey already love so that both can benefit from the resultant social-media exposure and old media support.

Lest you think this is just a commercial, opportunistic exercise, the sale of the hoodie, in fact, benefits places where COVID-19 vaccines have yet made significant impact. “All net profits,” Valentino reveals, “will be donated to UNICEF in favor of the COVAX facility, which ensures equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines by supplying doses to countries in need.” Doing so is also “to highlight the values the Maison stands for”, we are also told. We are not sure how many pieces are allotted to our island, but as of now, they are still available. Those who are keen on a charitable purchase and be in the company of others who share Valentino’s mission, best be quick. They are sold out in Europe.

The Valentino ‘Vaccinated’ hoodie is available on the brand’s website for SGD 1,1901. Photos: Valentino

Casual Is The New Couture Black

At Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli stepped away from red carpet, state dinner, or charity gala dressing. And it still dazzles

There are those who can accept the winds of change. They stand in the flutter—or blast—and enjoy the caresses of shifts and reversals (of time) around their bodies. Pierpaolo Piccioli is one of them. Not only does he embrace the currents flowing his way, he rides on them and soar. His latest couture for Valentino takes a break from the stupendous special occasion dressing that makes even grown men cry. They take into consideration, serenely, the unsettling time that is today. Called Code Temporal, the collection seems to address the question of what having the means to dress up really means at the present. And he does not need to suggest that it takes a village. Or a village wedding to give couture the reason to exist, to extol its time-honoured traditions. Just a stately home—the Palazzo Colonna in Rome, exemplar of the Roman Baroque, where an actual family, the Colonnas, still live (although part of the home is also a museum open to the public). It is in the ancient Great Hall of the Colonna Gallery, inaugurated in 1700, where Mr Piccioli sets the contrasting to his couture that, in comparison with his past output, is minimalist, the descriptor loathed by couture purists.

Haute couture has been in a state of protracted crossroads for as long as we can remember, and here we are again, considering not its survival or relevance, but how excessive or not it should be. There are couturiers who only want to whisk up volumes and those who can only design if they are in knee-deep vats of sequins and beads, even those based all the way in Beijing. The couture atelier was once known as a “laboratory” of ideas. Increasingly, they are more workshops of excess. With facilities that can output anything to indulge the couturier’s wildest fantasies, the clothes have been largely the basis for entertainment than the expression of a singular vision. Pierpaolo Piccioli shows that he is able to straddle both poles. And when the frippery of a former normal is shed, he shows himself to be a virtuoso of garments of technical finesse and beautiful proportions, of the tailleur and the flou, all the while not diminishing the specialness that is couture.

As if designed for (working from?) home that equals a chateau and the like, the clothes are pared down to respond to the needs of women in a domestic setting that might turn into a social gathering for a small intimate group, with not even a moment’s notice. Or for visiting the neighbour in the next palazzo down the road. Sure, the sensuous knit dresses can be worn to supervise the readying of the spring garden, but for most of the pieces, they require wanting to look this good when there is possibly no immediate audience. Dresses are sleek and not constricted; skirts—a couple with a train—swish or, with the slimmer pieces, lightly flap; cotton poplin shirts have the crispness of the ones you’re already used to, but look far dressier; supple coats, with their comfortable looseness, sheath like petals, while shorter, wrap-like tops swaddle like blankets. There is a noticeable lack of surface embellishment (save some embroideries and sequins), until the appearance of a pink open-work “bijoux” top (worn with bermuda shorts!), and you hope nightclubs will be back in business soon. Simplicity is no indication of lack of surprise: one sleeveless belted dress has a rear that looks like an unfastened gilet. Many outers are slipped off the shoulders at the end of the runway to reveal either simple separates inside or, in the case of one, a jaw-dropping top-and-pants-combination with ruffles and full sequins. Even a slip dress can have a double-boiler effect: the inner contained within an outer—one that threatens to slip completely off.

Valentino, to some, might not be Valentino if not for the ultra-feminine and, for a lack of a better word, the frothy. But there’s something to be said of designs so controlled in their execution, and colours and pairings so spirit-lifting: they convey real and rare artistry. Clothes of the highest calibre, conceived and made in rarified spaces that few find fathomable, can be this imaginable in a wardrobe, and can afford this palpability of elegance, deserve their place on actual bodies, not a collector’s store room or a museum’s archival facility. Valentino and Pierpaolo Piccioli should be accorded the honour.

Photos: Valentino

Taking It Back Home

Valentino showed in Milan. Was there a real advantage?

It isn’t absolutely clear why Pierpaolo Piccioli chose to show Valentino in Milan when the brand had stayed on the Paris calendar for 13 years. Sure, Mr Piccioli is Italian, and so is the brand’s founder. This, therefore, could be a homecoming for him and the house. In view of the on-going pandemic, some reports called it being “in solidarity with Italy”. Or, could it be that he’s been home all this while and that it was more practical to simply present the latest collection on home turf or the un-grand space of what is the (disused?) Fonderie Macchi outside Milan? But could it be something else, too? If the “Collezione Milano” is any indication, could it be because it does not really befit a Paris showing? Did Mr Piccioli want to be among his compatriots, showing the home-friendly styles that are thought to be what fashionistas would want as domestic life is wedded to professional obligations?

Valentino, like so many other brands in this Milan season, is pushing for the “new normal”, a socio-economic state that suggests people are likely to align themselves, for a while to come, with the more mundane aspects of life. In terms of fashion, that could be akin to everything we know as lounge wear. Or, for fashion folks, clothes that could stand up for Zooming while the kids are in front of another screen doing their school work. Even when we are now able to restore some semblance of social life physically, we are still not yet receiving invitations to events that require one whole afternoon of prepping and prettifying. Mr Piccioli seemed well aware of the present—and near future—realities, and Valentino this season seemed to suggest they understand and can respond to this quandary.

It was strange watching Valentino this toned-down. Some of us still remember the aerial couture show from just two months ago. How transfixing! This season was, for some of us viewers, a rapid descend to living reality, with an audible thud. It isn’t that the clothes were unattractive, but they did not arouse as they usually did. The romance and passion and the sumptuousness so often associated with Mr Piccioli’s work for the house were diminished. This was Valentino distilled. A reduction that brought us to the brand at its most basic and, consistent with the times, essential. Or, should that be introspective? If there ever was a need for Valentino Basics, this would have been it. In fact, at times during the show, we thought we were seeing pieces from the diffusion line Red Valentino.

It has not happened to us in the past, but this time, we spotted a simple shirt. Yes, it was in a hot pink, but it was still simple. Even Inès de La Fressange’s collaboration with Uniqlo does not yield this simple! Sure, it was baggy, it had a rather massive collar, and it could be worn to suggest a no-pants look (better to appeal to young influencers?), but it projected something just about bare-bones, which is kind of at odds with the image we have of the brand. Through the years since Mr Piccioli took on the stewardship of the house singly, we have been enamoured with the extravagance and resplendence that he had produced. Has it been to the point that we had completely shut our eyes to the unadorned and straightforward, like a shirt?

Now that we could see Valentino at its barest, presented in a setting that was just as stripped-down, were we witnessing a house in a vulnerable position? Presently, nobody knows where luxury brands are heading. Many are dialed to survival mode. In the case of Valentino, back to basics seemed like a good place on which to reset. Obvious were the foundational pieces such as shirts and jeans—the recession-proof, all-occasion pants. The denim slacks were produced in collaboration with Levi’s, and were based on 1961’s boot-cut style, the 517. This was not the Junya Watanabe take on the 501. Valentino’s iteration of the 517 was a lot more straightforward, a lot more vanilla: pants to ground the sheer, slouchy blouses; (faded) blues to make the ensembles look real.

Valentino’s evening dresses have always been those that many look forward to. They are, as the fashion cliché goes, “the stuff of dreams”. This time, they appeared to be so within reach that they seemed more for the living room of a bungalow or the garden than the red carpet or the steps of the Met Gala. They are flowy, with some ruffles, and they are gossamer and ethereal, but many have a housecoat ease about them that recall those ’70s kaftans worn for entertaining at home, such as the one Meryl Streep had on in a pivotal scene in 2017’s The Post. Perhaps, in times of uncertainty, we can dream in Valentino, rather than dream of.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Valentino

Just Spellbinding

Valentino’s latest haute couture shows why Pierpaolo Piccioli is the undisputed master

 

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Valentino himself once said, “I love beauty. It’s not my fault.” His successor Pierpaolo Piccioli loves the drama of beauty, and it’s really not his fault either. For the Valentino autumn winter haute couture collection, shown weeks away from the Paris calendar, Mr Piccioli engaged the British photographer Nick Knight as film-maker and the result is otherworldly and quite simply stunning. It’s the only label of the season to show that haute couture indeed deserves to be this exalted. This was the front-row seat we were promised but not delivered, till now.

Film in a darkened movie studio in Rome, with only the white (or off-white?) gowns illuminated, the video, Of Grace and Light, would elicit responses that result from the sheer marveling at its content. Mr Piccioli designs with authority and scale, and Mr Knight took them to greater heights—quite literally. For the models, this could have been an American Next Top Model “challenge”, only less death-defying! Whether swinging on a hoop or a fly bar, or standing aloft on (presumably) a ladder, the towering models were way above the usual landed requirement of duty.

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The literalists would take the clothes to be designed for stilt walkers. Yet, the cirque reference is not so far-fetched since there were some sort of flying trapeze acts, which were more magical than perilous. In the first (of the two-part) video, glitches were deliberately created or left unedited, as if the transmission was bad, as if the digital work was jinxed, as if to puncture the perfection that haute couture has come to stand for. And yet, models flew in the air to enhance the ephemeral, almost angel-like quality of the dresses. A few of the gowns were canvases on which visuals of oversized blooms were protected onto, adding to the romanticism that Mr Piccioli’s couture tends to project, and, at the same time, transmit the techie bits that a digital show is expected to have.

Then, after a unnecessarily long intermission, the camera pulled back to show the dresses in their full-length glory. Mr Piccioli not only create those exaggerated shapes he is known for, but also illustrated that sumptuous elegance need not only be achieved with a surfeit of decoration. During the lockdown of previous months, many couture beaders and embroiders were in home quarantine (perhaps not the Valentino plummasiers). Limited by the availability of his petite mains (little hands), Mr Piccioli did not scale down the perception that such clothes are only possible with human touch, still a bane in the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19. Instead, he scaled up vertically, proving that haute couture, even during a pandemic, can ascribe to loftier ideals.

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To be sure, this video subscribed to the belief—and tradition—that couture has a fantasy element about it, and panders to women who feed on such a fantasy. Yet, this wasn’t about even the most special occasion there could be to wear such gowns, but the artistry that could seriously fade to extinction if not encouraged and celebrated. Mr Piccioli did not just make more pretty dress; he made them monumental, as if they were pliable sculptures that paid homage to the limitless possibilities of the art of dressmaking. This was standing tall for haute couture.

It goes without saying that the gowns would eventually be scaled down (or shortened) for the Valentino customer. It is interesting to note that two former colleagues have presented couture dresses on the opposite end of the scale. Dior’s Maria Grazai Chiuri presented doll-sized gowns, while Mr Piccioli counterpointed with lengths that could be too long for even Amazons. And both dabbled with notions of what are deemed romantic, yet the presentations were equally on opposite ends, one fairytale-like, the other stark, black and white modernity. Haute couture presentations this season have been ephemera of a transitional time, but Valentino proposes that perhaps beauty can indeed last. And, thus, loved.

Screen grabs: Valentino/YouTube

Two Of A Kind: Long and Puffed

Cold Wear vs Moncler

For many fashion folks, it isn’t unclear which came first. Moncler announced their Genius collaboration in February this year. One of the contributors is Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli. His capsule collection for the Italian brand known for their down jackets is thought to be aesthetically the strongest among the eight designers invited to take part in the interpretation of the Moncler classic.

Mr Piccioli’s stunning versions, available at Club 21 last month, took Moncler’s familiar shape and quilting and gave them a simple but exaggerated silhouette. The most talked about and shared are the floor length, hooded coats (right, the Agnese) that has a familiarity that can be linked to Mr Piccioli’s rather renaissance silhouette he conceived for Valentino intermittently. Moncler’s puffer coats, for the first time, has a couture sensibility about them.

The long duvet coats, in the house nylon Laqué and with their horizontal quilting, recently had the spotlight shone on one of them when Erza Miller of the Fantastic Beasts series wore a black version to the franchise’s—The Crimes of Grindelwald—Paris opening early this month. Fashion tongues were wagging, and the most striking of the Moncler collaborations took centrestage.

Not long after Mr Miller’s red-carpet strut, this version (left) was spotted at the entrance of the Coldwear store in Tampines One. The version, as we learned, is not for sale. But, as the saleswoman told us, it can be made-to-order. And how much would that set us back? “Eight hundred to a thousand,” she said hesitatingly in Mandarin (the Agnese is on the other end at USD4,135). Why was it on display if it wasn’t for sale? “I don’t know,” she continued unhelpfully, “the boss wants it here.”

Cold Wear is a Singapore-based subsidiary of one of Indonesia’s largest manufacturers of winter wear. Their in-house label Coldwear’s coat in question comes in a white that has a hint of blue or grey, depending on the ambient light, sort of the colour of snow after a day or two. The nylon used isn’t as fine as Moncler’s—to be expected—and the down filling is rather thin and limp.

As we allowed the coat to feed our fascination, one of two women walking past the Coldwear store who caught sight of the mannequin’s outfit at the entrance, said to her friend, “Wah, can wear for a wedding!”

Photos: Zhao Xiangji

The Scallop Age

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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.

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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.

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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 opportunityself-offered mostlyto 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.

Photos: indigital.tv

The Virtuoso At Valentino

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After seeing Pierpaolo Piccioli’s collection for Valentino, it is clear to us who among the two (once co-creators at the house) was the weaker that Christian Dior enticed. As a solo act, Mr Piccioli has quickly found his footing although some of us have seen it there all along, as we noted at his first one-man couture show for the house early this year. Or, perhaps, finally unhindered, he is able to conceive for a Valentino that strikes the delicate balance between the house’s unmistakable femininity and the present-day call for a sense of the street. It is a sweet spot.

According to those who quoted from his show notes, Mr Piccioli wanted to “make the ordinary extraordinary” with his spring/summer 2018 collection. His ordinary is, however, not the commonplace that has kept lesser brands afloat. Valentino Garavani’s own extraordinary, while not ground-shaking even at its height in the ’60s, is unapologetic femininity that ensured the head-to-toe good taste few women can resist. Under Mr Piccioli’s stewardship, the aesthetic has an even more alluring magic. Evocative of the blitheness of literary heroines of the past, the sometimes near-pious appearance and, at the same time, sweet girlishness have almost obliterated the memory of the uninspired collections of Mr Garavani’s successor, the by-now forgotten Alessandra Facchinetti, formerly from Gucci.

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Mr Piccioli’s predilection for high necks and long sleeves has prompted some women to think he uses too much cloth.  It is actually refreshing that he has given us reason to believe that fashion, in the end, is about fabrics, not the lack of it, and how they flow on the body, not how they expose it. By that, we don’t mean that Mr Piccioli’s designs are excessively proper and devoid of sex appeal. His short dresses have a youthfulness that is akin to anything worn at Coachella. Yet, he did not have to resort to tired tricks such as blatant transparency and all-over logos to set his message in the clear present.

The first set of the latest collection, in fact, took us quite by surprise. Who’d thought of outdoor wear at Valentino? But there they are: The North Face refaced, and the result sumptuous. These are parkas and kin that are not designed for the rough and tumble of challenging mountains; these are for the joy of get-togethers in an alpine lodge, more so when the outers come with sleeves aglitter with paillettes. Equally beguiling are the fabrics: gossamer veils more in line with couture than clothing that benefits from the use of Gore-Tex. And the layers in pale colours have the sublime lightness of feuillete.

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To be sure, glammed-up outdoor wear has been explored at Sacai, where Chitose Abe has re-imagined them in unlikely tweed. Ms Abe has a flair for feminising sports and outdoor fashion without feminine overkill, first seen in her collaboration with Nike in spring 2015. Mr Piccioli’s versions are less avant garde, perhaps, and less of hybrids, but they are no less innovative. The pocket placements, the tops stitches, and the mix of fabrics in just a pair for a piece of garment suggest a penchant for the “extraordinary” indeed.

The youthful factor is enticingly augmented by rather un-Valentino details: exposed pocket bags on pants, allowed to hang out like Miley Cirus’s one-time over-exposed tongue. Whether this is a nod to how women—young and not so young—enjoy wearing short shorts with shredded or ripped crotch that exposes unusually long pocket bags, it is not quite clear. But Mr Piccioli’s version is nothing like the sad sacks described. In fact, the pockets are so exquisitely designed, proportioned, and embellished, they’re not the least extraneous, adding to the overall glamourous utility, like a handbag augmenting the stylishness of an outfit.

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There’s also something beguiling about the way Mr Piccioli works with rather conventional forms, but offers compositional daring within. The juxtaposition of prints and textures, the gathers and flounces asymmetrically fashioned, the multiple necklines and singular softness of the shoulders—they validate the notion that women do not need the aggression of extreme shapes to make a statement. His silhouettes do not challenge less outré tastes, yet they are seductive for women who are averse to the unsurprising. His dresses—from red-carpet-worthy gowns to those that would not be out of place on a prairie bathed in sunshine—have a sense of ease about them that does not suggest too effortless.

Despite all the highfalutin discourse about the moon that Mr Piccioli had supposedly shared with the media prior to the show, the clothes offer no perceptible hint of anything lunar. We like that so much of what he has showed is uplifting, just as the swishing of dresses, we imagine, could be euphonic. If fashion should not be minimal, as the prevailing winds suggest, it sure could be as astutely elaborate as Valentino.

Photos: (top) Valentino and (catwalk) indigital.tv

He Did It. Alone.

Now a solo act, Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino SS 2017 couture proves that sometimes fashion is really better as an OMS

 

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The couture season is well over. We’re now looking at the collections again. Like good books, some fashion collections deserve a revisit. And one that really brought pleasure to us again is Valentino. These are, simply put, sensational clothes. They are fine-looking, closer to Valentino in spirit, and clearly directional.

Pierpaolo Piccioli has shown that he can steer the storied house alone, sans a partner that has proved to be quite unspectacular—dull, even—at Dior, reaffirming, once again, that couture is, perhaps, better in the hands of a man.

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Yes, we risk being chastised for posting a sexist statement (we’re not, rest assured, keeping apace in the era of Trump!). To be sure, we’re not saying women can’t do couture. No one will dispute the talent of Coco Chanel. Or Madame Gres. Or Madeline Vionnet. Or, for those who insist on contemporary references, Iris Van Herpen. But not that many women can weave magic in the couture.

And it would be narrow not to accept that the sexes do design differently. We are not sure how the balance of creative power played out before, but with a female in the equation, Valentino did look a tad fussily femme. At times, it was even theatrical, as if homage to literary damsels of the past. That’s not, of course, necessarily a bad thing (we’re still enamoured with those painterly embroidery). It’s just that too much of the frills and flowers just got a little tired and predictable.

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Mr Piccioli’s couture collection is so spare, yet stunning, so desirous of caress. You just want to jump into one of those column dresses. With clothes this eye-catchingly simple, why, one wonders, would there be the upsurge in the overwrought, over-embroidered, over-designed. Mr Piccioli showed that ruffles need not mean flamenco and that gossamer need not be vulgar. Even when there were embellishments, there were, to us, judicious use and application, which recall the gowns Audrey Hepburn had worn (she was not strictly Givenchy), such as the beaded dress that she presented herself in at The Proust Ball at the Château de Ferrières in 1971. A light touch.

To us, there is in the collection a nod to Valentino of the Firenze years, when Jackie Kennedy first came to be acquainted with the designer’s clothes in 1964, and soon became a long-time client. When Diana Vreeland first met Valentino, also in that year, she was reported to have said to him, “Even at birth, genius always stands out. I see genius in you. Good luck.” It’s too early to discern genius in Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino, but we sure like to say good luck too.

Photos: Imaxtree