TOKYO — A day after unveiling a new retail concept at its Ginza flagship store, Valentino staged its first runway show in Japan since the Eighties, with creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli also showing women’s wear and men’s wear together for the first time.
“In Japan and in the world today, I don’t think you feel such a difference between genders,” the designer said. “It’s a different way of working, but the philosophy behind men and women I think is the same. So the clothes are different, a different wardrobe, but the values are the same.”
Piccioli drew on classic couture detailing for women and tailoring for men, but reimagined them in a more modern way that is more appropriate for every day.
“I didn’t want to do streetwear or daywear generically,” he said. “I wanted to get the identity of the house, but going into the street.”
The result was a pre-fall collection that struck a perfect balance between red-carpet drama and practicality. Many of the most iconic codes of Valentino could be found yet refreshed. Flowers, such as those that adorned the dress Marisa Berenson was photographed in for Vogue in 1968, showed up as tiny buds adorning a knit dress with rows of ruffles — another classic Valentino flourish — running across the skirt.
Piccioli also took colorful floral prints from the brand’s archives and overdyed them in red and black so that the two colors appeared “not just as colors but as shades of the same color.” He used the prints on puffy down jackets, ruffled coats, silk dresses and pleated culottes.
Lace also made several appearances, but not always where one would expect. A lightweight nylon parka printed with an image by Japanese photographer Izumi Miyazaki had lace worked into its hem, while butterflies like the ones in the photo were also appliquéd onto the back of the garment.
For men, Piccioli showed tailored coats in tech fabrics, relaxed trousers and boxy jackets. “It’s tailoring with a new perspective. Less structured, very soft,” he said. Camouflage, one of Valentino’s codes for men, looked fluid on a cashmere sweater with an uneven hem.
Much of the asymmetry in the collection was inspired by the Japanese concepts of wabi-sabi and “ma” — a word that represents the space between two places or ideas.
“I felt that this idea of wabi-sabi, the kintsugi [the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer], are very close to my idea of beauty. So for me that was the real connection — between my vision of beauty and the Japanese culture,” Piccioli explained. “I wanted to understand the deeply real connection I had with the Japanese culture, and so I worked on that because I felt, this is an opportunity for me to show a relevant collection as a pre-collection both for men and women.”
Piccioli chose a raw warehouse space for the show, in order to let the collection shine on its own.
“It’s a very brutalist space. It’s about architecture, it’s all about concrete — it’s not decorated. And I wanted to get the essence of the space, too — not to get a decorated space but just to choose a space that was beautiful because it was naked,” he said. “And I feel that it was empty enough that I think it was a ‘ma’ itself — it’s a space where everything could happen.”
An ankle-length dress with an ivory-and-black moon motif had a single piece of fabric connecting one sleeve to the bottom hem, creating a continuous, fluid line. It was a striking piece that would look as right with heels on the red carpet as it did with utilitarian flats on the runway.
Standout pieces included a series of dresses in ruffled red tulle, which showed both volume and movement. In one, the tulle was tightly gathered together to create a fur-like look, while another featured rows of spaghetti-like tubes, layered together to form a bodice that vaguely called to mind samurai armor.
“I think that today, it’s difficult to say, ‘This is Italian, this is Japanese.’ I think if you’re open, everything touches you and influences you in the way you look at things,” Piccioli said. “That’s why I felt that the perspective of wabi-sabi created an approach to the collection….You don’t really change the things, but you can change the eyes with which you look at the things. So that really changed the perception at the very end. I tried to look at the work and the collection and the pieces and the codes and the values of the house with new eyes, more pervaded with this idea of Japanese wabi-sabi. Because I feel that this is more modern, not because it’s Japanese. I feel that diversity is a value today. I feel that beauty is about uniqueness.”