While his competition travels the globe for ever-more exotic pre-fall and cruise locations, Pierpaolo Piccioli is taking a different tack entirely. He has identified New York as Valentino’s second home away from home, after Paris, where the Rome-based house has long shown its couture and primary ready-to-wear collections.
For Piccioli, New York epitomizes cultural diversity at its most expansive and genuine, a concept he wants to capture, particularly in his pre-collections. Yet the collection Piccioli showed on Tuesday morning proved more than a sartorial civics class. It was a compelling ode to casual urbanity — chic, smart and glamorous in the most unfettered sense. As such, it offered a powerful statement of Piccioli’s intention to build the daywear side of the Valentino repertoire in a manner more pragmatic than that which meshes so seamlessly with the lyrical gowns he presents in March and October.
Yes, this collection has some pan-cultural currents, mostly in embroideries and knits that looked non-specifically tribal. But Piccioli’s primary point was to tackle head-on that which has become one of luxury’s greatest challenges: its customers’ increasingly casual lifestyles. He did so in a powerful street-sport-Valentino fusion. No easy trick, especially given the baseline of his work for the house: elevated storybook romance. He made it work, brilliantly, in a template that borrowed shamelessly — make that proudly — from the language of street while making very clear that at the luxury level, looking cool is nice, but not enough. Clothes must also look luxurious, and worth their price.
Piccioli took elements of hip-hop and sport (tracksuits, performance tanks, techno fabrics) as well as such time-honored classics (trench, white shirt, jeans) and upgraded them to obvious luxury. He manipulated cuts so that the intricacies of design stood out without detracting from the ease: splicing a shirt here, shifting the placket there; cutting a wedge below the waistband of a pair of pants. The track pants, some in hammered silks, were big, fluid swaths of with contrasting side panels. Reinvented varsity jackets blousoned in airy silk and fell loose in felted blue cashmere, sans ribbed hem border. Piccioli took the body-hugging constructs of scuba wear and added sun-ray piping that released into soft dresses. Most brilliant: He made it all work within the context of Valentino, playing the sporty elements off of what are now a house classic — those divine collage dresses in gentle geometries of silks and lace. Piccioli extended his treatise into evening: a long maroon T-shirt with pink silk side insets, and a pair of swim-inspired black gowns that will play to the inner siren of every Valentino girl, as sexy as they were spare. And spectacular.