Virgil Abloh’s appointment as men’s wear designer for Louis Vuitton keeps rippling through the luxury sector. Amid grumblings that social media is increasingly dictating the design process, leading houses are feeling their way through this brave new world with products geared at the streetwear-hungry Millennial and Gen Z crowd.
Valentino is no exception. Since the introduction of its VLTN logo last year — a play on an archival font — the brand has been pushing into casualwear in a way that suggests the suit is an extinct species. Pierpaolo Piccioli’s spring collection took that process a step further, with a lineup so heavy on logos, the eye at times boggled.
Like a scrolling message display, a fuchsia pink VLTN logo crawled across a pied-de-poule check coat, a camouflage zipper jacket, jeans, a bucket hat and a leather belt bag — and that was just one outfit. Other looks featured logos borrowed from Seventies archival scarf prints, tying in with his women’s resort designs.
Sprinkled throughout were mementoes of the house’s couture roots: appliquéd wings on a gray sweatshirt, hand-stitched palm trees on a craft-intensive sweater, and ornately embroidered wildlife on track suit tops and coats — not to mention the sneakers with snap-off tabs sprouting ostrich feathers.
This season, Piccioli’s approach was informed by trap music — not because he personally gravitates to the gritty genre, but because it speaks to the youth, including his 12-year-old daughter Stella.
Still, he can connect with the way people bond over music. “You think of Valentino as an exclusive brand, but I think that today, Valentino has to be inclusive,” he said. “I want to get these values into the house, and I think music is something that includes people and creates a community of people who share the same interest.”
As part of his new, more collaborative design method, he asked four of the front row guests — rappers Nas, A$AP Ferg and Keith Ape, alongside rising female singer Syd — to designate their spirit animals: a lion, panther, ape and peacock, respectively, that were worked into the embroidered looks.
In a nod to gender fluidity, Piccioli showed some of the outfits on girls, and plans to make items in smaller sizes so women can buy them, too.
The designer said he was trying to link the couture values of Valentino with the way that youngsters relate to fashion. “It’s not about designing, it’s not about creating fashion as we used to think about fashion, but they have a sort of relationship which is more spontaneous,” he explained.
The trouble is, much of that spontaneity resides in picking and mixing items to create one-of-a-kind looks. While the collection’s vintage elements nicely tapped into that “bootleg” approach, the layering of logos left little space for personal expression.
The show raised a broader question. If customers are increasingly dictating the output of luxury brands, what becomes the role of the designer? Piccioli seems genuine in his desire to evolve with the times, but it would be a shame if — in the name of inclusivity — his voice got drowned in the process.