Valentino’s shows in Paris have become synonymous with hordes of screaming fans and this season was no exception. Creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli unveiled his spring haute couture collection in a pitch-black nightclub next to the Seine River in front of guests including Anne Hathaway, Suga, Kylie Minogue, Sam Smith, Doja Cat and Ashley Park, who arrived on crutches.
Hundreds of onlookers massed on the ornate Pont Alexandre III bridge in near-freezing temperatures to watch the livestreamed arrivals, as the Eiffel Tower gleamed in the backdrop against the foggy night sky.
Guests entering the venue were handed wristbands that read “Valentino Le Club Couture.” It was a far cry from this time last year, when the house staged its show in the hushed calm of its salons on Place Vendôme, evoking a time when society women dressed only in made-to-measure clothes. But Piccioli believes that the rarefied discipline should break with tradition.
“To me, couture is relevant when it talks to a lot of people, when you can deliver your message in a very bold way and I felt during these seasons that the young generation are really touched by couture,” the designer explained in a preview.
“I was thinking about this idea of a kind of glamorous extravaganza but in a new way, full of humanity and personalities, kind of like when young people go in a club and they are invited to be the best version of themselves,” he added.
His coed lineup of 89 looks was a festival of color and embellishment that toggled between old-school glamour, inspired by founder Valentino Garavani’s exuberant designs in the ’80s, and tops and skirts as brief as censorship strips.
This was partywear for the post-lockdown set. Think neon green tights and towering platform shoes, worn with nothing but a sheer pink puff-sleeved, ruffled organza blouse and micro briefs dripping with drop-shaped Murano glass pearls. “I love this idea of the impossible of the couture, creating pieces that look out of this world,” Piccioli remarked.
His nocturnal animals prowled out in minimal-coverage looks that were guaranteed to raise the temperature on the dance floor. A sheer black chiffon cape was tossed over a micro bra and panty set, while the neckline on a black column dress dipped so low, it exposed the navel. No doubt, Mrs. Astor would be spinning in her grave.
Metallic effects ruled, from a silver sequined men’s coat, slung over an open shirt and black shorts, to the ajouré silver embroidery on a bustier dress worn by Kristen McMenamy, who tossed her heels into the crowd after taking a tumble on the runway, looking every inch the reveler walking home barefoot at dawn.
Behind the “anything goes” vibe lay hours of painstaking workmanship. A pale green tulle jumpsuit was tufted with thousands of feathers that had been stripped to leave them almost weightless, while a ruffled ballgown was made with a staggering 320 meters of purple taffeta, requiring close to 1,000 hours to sew.
Some of that artistry was drowned out by the underground setting and throbbing soundtrack, which didn’t favor close scrutiny. But as a fashion spectacle, the show was a triumph. For the finale, Piccioli’s luxe ravers stepped out into the night, cheered on by the crowd, caught up in its own revelry.