You would never know it from the parade of precise black leathers — among them a cape, a jumpsuit with a cut-out back, a long trench and Bermuda shorts — that opened the Valentino show, but Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli were doing “folk in a very contemporary way,” Piccioli said during a preview. Then, the curly frogging on a coat and raw stitching on a top offered a clue. But even as the collection, which was full of beautiful pieces, progressed into more obvious thematic turf — a textural coat inspired by an exotic carpet, for example — it was less about quirky charm or global eclecticism than elevating crafty details and treatments to the luxury stratosphere.
Way up there, folkloric free spirits are subject to the rules of chic and control. So while Chiuri and Piccioli’s mood board was piled with images of such colorful women as Janis Joplin, Penelope Tree and Twiggy, the main shades on the runway were black and beige. It would have been nice to see more of the gorgeous multitoned embroideries, but if the designers white-knuckled the whimsy, the more sober fare was nice, too.
There were a lot of long-sleeve dresses and coats with high necks, fitted bodices and gentle A-line skirts — the prettily modest silhouette that has become their default mode over the last several seasons. One is inclined to wonder what else they have up their sleeves, but for now the look is still a compelling canvas for serene chic, when shown plain or with lavish workmanship. Of the former, there was a lovely scarlet dress with a square scalloped neckline; of the latter, a white coatdress trimmed in creamy passementerie, while a black one came in a patchwork of fur and exotic embroidery.