Keeping a consistent narrative is crucial for a brand’s credibility today; Gen Z customers, the demographic coveted by every luxury house, are drawn to designers whose work is creative and value-driven in equal measure. That dynamic isn’t lost on Pierpaolo Piccioli, who has rebooted Valentino for a new audience, amping up the brand’s cultural ethos to resonate with the zeitgeist. Pivoting on the label’s extraordinary couture heritage, Piccioli’s focus is to translate the codes of Italian savoir faire into an aesthetic that, while staying true to its high-style fundamentals, speaks to the attitudes of fashion’s younger consumers.
This ongoing exercise somehow peaked, both visually and conceptually, in Piccioli’s spring collection last October, paraded in the streets of Paris with fashion students filling many of the seats. Models sported individual looks styled to suit their personality, further highlighting the intent to relate to the world of today. Picking up where that show left off, the words ‘real’ and ‘reality’ came up quite often in a conversation with the designer about pre-fall.
Piccioli believes that the aesthetic codes of the maison can be given a different meaning by shifting the way they’re interpreted by the wearer. To that end, for pre-fall he worked on pieces quintessentially Valentino (so much so that some templates came directly from couture collections), but “shuffled the attitude,” as he said, and tweaked the styling to create a sort of dissonance and vitality.
Shot in the streets of London on young models, the lookbook images were conceived as a “portrait of a generation that wears clothes not necessarily different from those of 10, 20 years ago, but which are adapted to today’s lifestyle and our real social context,” said Piccioli. Case in point was the little black dress, a staple for cocktail receptions in a bourgeois milieu that Piccioli believes can be twisted into a sort of clubbing uniform. On the same note, an immaculate short white cape with matching pleated shirt that would’ve looked apropos on Marisa Berenson in the ‘70s if paired with high heels and a silk blouse, was given a cooler spin styled with a cropped marinière and chunky loafers. A sumptuous purple robe coat, lavishly embroidered with the Valentino atelier’s handcrafted couture techniques was turned into a citycoat and worn over a pair of distressed denim pants.
The challenge Piccioli faces is to immerse into today’s complex reality a label whose imagery is rarefied and rooted in a world of privilege, twisting the references and techniques of couture to suit a modern way of dressing that favors personality instead of status. “I want to breathe life into Valentino,” he reiterated. “I want its idea of perfect beauty to be somehow stained, so to speak, by the reality of today’s life, and to make it alive and relevant for a community of people with no reverence towards fashion, but who inhabit fashion with sentiment and an attitude of personal creativity.”