Modern — a word with which fashion is obsessed. Yet other words matter all as much: beauty, allure, emotion, desire. While not immune to the pull of the former, Pierpaolo Piccioli refuses to sacrifice the latter in its pursuit. Lucky for the couture, lucky for fashion in general, and very lucky for the house’s couture clients. Because the Valentino collection Piccioli showed on Wednesday evening, the last major show of the spring 2018 season, conjured another word: perfection.
Piccioli started his work on the collection ruminating on the future of haute. His conclusion, recounted during a preview: “That future arises from his past. The origins, the essence of couture, the ceremonies, the rituals, the process.”
And the people. In addition to his typical, artful mood board adorned with inspirational imagery, this season Piccioli added two additional boards. One featured 72 envelopes, their flaps opened to semi-reveal the hand-written notes inside, and the other a huge rendering of the Valentino “V,” its lines shaped from 72 signatures in black, both written by the craftspeople of Valentino’s couture ateliers. In the case of the notes, Piccioli asked everyone to write something about the significance of the couture. Just before the show, they all had looks named in their honor. “The people of couture, the hands, they make it work,” he said.
Piccioli challenged his staff to do so by invoking fully the iconography of the genre — ruffles, bows, colors, feathers, he ran through the litany — a manner referential but not reverential. And so they did, the result a rare, seamless fusion of flamboyance, grace and high chic.
Piccioli established the timeline connectivity from the top, literally: a genius, giant, ultra-haute blue feather hat by Philip Treacy (one of several such pastel wonders) topped the first look out: a ruffled mustard faille cape over an embroidered tank and wool trousers. This look telegraphed the primary proportion, generous, and palette, bold. Thus followed long dresses, grand gowns, sweeping capes, relaxed coats. Tailored looks featured blouses with oversize bows at the shoulder or waist; out-to-there tent evening looks came short, in fuchsia silk, and long, in a giant anemone print.
As for Piccioli’s color sense, who knew? Not that he’s shied away in the past, but here he exhibited a previously unseen audacity: lilac blouse/deep purple skirt/yellow sash; gold opera coat/fuchsia top/red trousers/blue gloves. These never overwhelmed, as Piccioli balanced the lineup with soft diaphanous neutrals, in beiges and soft gold, and of course the essential shot of black, including an incredible double-layer coat in cashmere.
None if it reinvented the haute wheel. Rather, it took that wheel in all its familiarity, respected the template and fearlessly reimagined its possibilities. And it took us along for the joy ride.