While preparing his spring collection for Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli ruminated on creative freedom. He thought about the early 20th-century artists who populated the Maverick Art Colony in a little place in Upstate New York called Woodstock. That got him thinking about specific creatives and their havens, particularly Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech.
“These people saw certain places as paradise because they couldn’t be free in their own cities,” Piccioli said. “For me, you want to be free to express yourself where you live.”
Employment-wise, Piccioli lives in a very specific place: the house of Valentino. It’s a storied place with a history, an ethos and an aesthetic standard, which, if anything, he has only heightened during his tenure. But the world is an increasingly casual place, and it’s Piccioli’s mandate to keep the brand relevant in it, and, in his word, contemporary (as in modern, not market).
Yet Valentino’s roots, and much of its present, are in couture, and for Piccioli, freedom means acknowledging that reality. His approach as spring loomed: “I wanted to get the dream of couture, getting the fantasy into reality.” That’s more than soundbite blather. Piccioli has become a major industry standard-bearer for unrelenting beauty, and sees its creation and delivery to his customers as his professional raison d’être.
For spring, he brought a lightness and spontaneity to the cause. He started with a group of dresses in volumes and with finishes that referenced couture — billowing silhouette, lace work, feathered flourish. But he worked these in basic black, mostly unfussy cotton-silk blends. Volume, some of it nodding toward Saint Laurent, figured prominently in the collection. Also referencing couture: prints, here simplified down to two or three colors, and fanciful patchworks in place of more labor-intensive intarsias. Flamboyant, yes, but grounded with sturdy, flat sandals with snap-on feather strips on the heels.
While Piccioli focused primarily on dresses, he also showed separates both discrete (white shirt with poet’s sleeves over black pants) and not so (a pair of sweatshirts flashing giant V logos atop black skirts). For handbags, Piccioli also revived a gold hardware logo from the Eighties.
This was not a deep-thoughts collection, but one built on a simple premise: beautiful clothes, worn with a free spirit.