Pre-pandemic, Valentino ready-to-wear shows in Paris were typically staged in a sleek tent — a metaphor for the fashion bubble, a closed community of media and retail professionals, VIPs and influencers.
For spring 2022, Pierpaolo Piccioli switched to the Carreau du Temple, a former market building in the bustling and trendy Marais district, and installed pop-ups nearby selling sneakers, flowers, beauty products and pro-vaccine T-shirts. His young models whisked through the venue, set with café tables, and then marched out onto Rue Dupetit-Thouars, giving Parisians seated on the restaurant terraces as good a view as Dixie D’Amelio and Noah Beck, who held hands throughout much of the show.
Fashion’s ivory towers are being toppled, and Piccioli is energized — and challenged — to hang a come-one-come-all sign on the Roman couture house.
“My challenge is to make the brand relevant for this moment without losing the codes of the house,” he said during a preview. “But I don’t think you have to do streetwear to embrace a different world.”
Instead, Piccioli employed washed taffeta for Bermuda shorts, anoraks, bomber jackets and shirts, garments that can be worn by both sexes in an offhand way, though with the benefit of one of fashion’s most gifted colorists.
The designer imagined young people discovering a cache of old couture, and tinkering with the garments, adapting them to urban life in the 2020s.
Or not. Piccioli also cherry-picked a handful of items from the archive of founder Valentino Garavani and didn’t change them a lick. But a floral-print blouse from way back takes on a different character on a boy, as does a tea dress festooned with poppies when worn by a Goth-looking girl with combat boots.
Piccioli noted that Garavani had done street casting himself when he launched jeans in 1985, showing the black-and-white vintage ad — depicting a young man with a six-pack lounging seductively, his pants unbuttoned, one hand clutching an apple — stamped above the two back pockets.
The streetwear vibe was achieved without sneakers or logos, telegraphed by the diverse, “real people” casting, the flat gladiator sandals and the freewheeling styling, faded jeans blunting the dressy allure of ethereal and frothy white blouses, or densely embroidered dusters.
Piccioli favored simple garments like shirts — zhuzhed up with feathers, or supersized and slashed in washed taffeta — and pajamas, printed with graphic florals.
The accessories were terrific, hinged on blown-up rockstuds punctuating petite handbags and giving a punkish allure to all manner of flat shoes.
Piccioli noted rockstuds, which helped Valentino become a major player in accessories, originated on the doors of Roman palazzos, and may well be adopted by the TikTok generation as funky accessories.
“It’s interesting to see something that you already know with different eyes, with a different perspective,” he mused.
Ditto his spring clothes, which had a grandeur that was grounded.