Now a solo act, Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino SS 2017 couture proves that sometimes fashion is really better as an OMS
The couture season is well over. We’re now looking at the collections again. Like good books, some fashion collections deserve a revisit. And one that really brought pleasure to us again is Valentino. These are, simply put, sensational clothes. They are fine-looking, closer to Valentino in spirit, and clearly directional.
Pierpaolo Piccioli has shown that he can steer the storied house alone, sans a partner that has proved to be quite unspectacular—dull, even—at Dior, reaffirming, once again, that couture is, perhaps, better in the hands of a man.
Yes, we risk being chastised for posting a sexist statement (we’re not, rest assured, keeping apace in the era of Trump!). To be sure, we’re not saying women can’t do couture. No one will dispute the talent of Coco Chanel. Or Madame Gres. Or Madeline Vionnet. Or, for those who insist on contemporary references, Iris Van Herpen. But not that many women can weave magic in the couture.
And it would be narrow not to accept that the sexes do design differently. We are not sure how the balance of creative power played out before, but with a female in the equation, Valentino did look a tad fussily femme. At times, it was even theatrical, as if homage to literary damsels of the past. That’s not, of course, necessarily a bad thing (we’re still enamoured with those painterly embroidery). It’s just that too much of the frills and flowers just got a little tired and predictable.
Mr Piccioli’s couture collection is so spare, yet stunning, so desirous of caress. You just want to jump into one of those column dresses. With clothes this eye-catchingly simple, why, one wonders, would there be the upsurge in the overwrought, over-embroidered, over-designed. Mr Piccioli showed that ruffles need not mean flamenco and that gossamer need not be vulgar. Even when there were embellishments, there were, to us, judicious use and application, which recall the gowns Audrey Hepburn had worn (she was not strictly Givenchy), such as the beaded dress that she presented herself in at The Proust Ball at the Château de Ferrières in 1971. A light touch.
To us, there is in the collection a nod to Valentino of the Firenze years, when Jackie Kennedy first came to be acquainted with the designer’s clothes in 1964, and soon became a long-time client. When Diana Vreeland first met Valentino, also in that year, she was reported to have said to him, “Even at birth, genius always stands out. I see genius in you. Good luck.” It’s too early to discern genius in Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino, but we sure like to say good luck too.