One could argue that this couture season saw two major debuts, the more obvious, that of Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri. In a sense, her former partner, Pierpaolo Piccioli, had his own debut, his first solo couture collection for Valentino, since he and Chiuri ascended to the role of joint creative directors after the retirement of the house founder.
“To do couture for a designer is a great opportunity,” Piccioli said during a preview, appearing not at all frazzled on the eve of his third show in three weeks. (He’s shown men’s last week in Paris, and prior to that, pre-fall, in New York.) “For me to create couture, to have the opportunity to work with the atelier, is a dream come true.”
For spring, Piccioli staged another exquisite Valentino Dream sequence. That it was beautiful should surprise no one, given the portfolio he has put out there these past several years (albeit, until now, a tandem résumé). During that time, the house has soared among the elite of fashion on the strength of an aesthetic that seems antithetical to the modern world, one of grace and lyricism.
What did surprise: The challenging nature of the collection. These were not easy clothes. Exquisite, yes, but not easy in terms of proportion. Dresses fell free-form to the floor from a high neck or off the shoulders, unfettered by demarcations of waist or hips. Often, subtle trapeze cuts, pleats and vertical ruffles added sly volume to the gentle plissés and chiffons. The overall look was surrealist, otherworldly nightgown; these beauties could have costumed Heaven in a Cocteau film, had he been a minimalist. There were day looks as well, including a round-shouldered cape and a long white coat embroidered discreetly with classical symbols of love and nature, both in sturdy, austere cashmere double-face.
Piccioli wears his audacity humbly. Here, he showed a daring collection in which he literally let loose with his haute dreams.