It was an unexpected showing of futuristic-inspired fashion when creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli chose a somewhat Sci-Fi narrative. There were however, traces of the regular Valentino-Piccioli Renaissance romance, inspired by the epic poem (circa 1532), The Frenzy of Orlando, by Ludovico Ariosto.
Piccioli was re-introduced to this legendary piece of European writing by his oldest daughter who’s studying literature at university. Written in a shorter form as early as the year 1516, the writings were the first-ever prose to acknowledge ideas of space travel.
“I was very impressed by the part when Orlando loses his mind for love, and his best friend has to go to the Moon to recover his sanity,” Piccioli offered in a media interview. The Italian designer further enthused: “It’s important, because the Moon is the place where you can find what is lost in the heart. I like this idea of the Moon as a second opportunity.”
Once upon a collection
Romantic notions and dreamy philosophies are some of the forces that drive Piccioli’s design prowess. These sentiments are normally translated into visuals, which Piccioli then crafts into mood boards that inspire and shape his collections.
There was a compelling image on one of Piccioli’s mood boards this season. Titled Earthrise, it was a photo shot by the astronaut Bill Anders who was on the Apollo 8 mission. An Anders quote accompanying the 1968 photo was probably what inspired Piccioli the most: “We came all this way to explore the moon and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”
While the Moon offers ideas of escapism, Earth is the true essence of Picciolli’s Valentino dreamscape. Picciolli is aware of the needs of women and hence, the pretty clothes he creates are always as dreamy as they are practical.
In the case of this collection, it meant Picciolli disregarded the space odyssey leanings of Sci-Fi fashion but instead relied on his good ole ingredients: beauty and romance. Mused Picciolli in the same media interview: “That’s more about escaping (Sci-Fi fashion). I like parallel universes.”
Piccioli drew these parallels best with his sparkly numbers that spanned from casual daywear to dressy evening gowns. His use of shiny materials to denote glitz and glamour were desirable and far from tacky.
When executed on a series of loose dress shapes coupled with a Helmut Lang-inspired Nineties athleticism, the effects were carefree yet empowering – consider the modernism of sporty T-bar/halter tank tops worn layered under roomy maxi tank dresses.
A series of short dresses with colour and pattern-blocking details also provided a strong storyboard for Nineties sportswear fashion. They too, recalled the streamlined silhouettes of Lang’s clean-cut approach, which at times include just right amount of feminine touches. Similar to Lang, Piccioli’s renditions showcased his astute know-how on mixing “hard and soft” fabric elements and the payoffs were as fanciful as they were minimal.
Two plastic trench-style jackets and a couple of other shimmery paillette embellished separates could be argued as Piccioli’s closest reference to a Space Age homage à la Paco Rabanne. But Piccioli’s design and styling mix just appeared more insouciant and functional despite all of its artisanal and decorative approach.
The plastic jackets would definitely come in handy as chic outerwear for rainy spring days and that paillette-embellished mint green anorak? Simply put, it will up the dressy ante on athleisure fashion by leaps and bounds.
There was another iconic reference on Picciolli’s mood boards that found its way into the collection and reminisced Mr Valentino’s glamorous Eighties heyday, too. It was an image of the great Italian designer and founder escorting a young but doll-ed up Brooke Shields to a party; while in another, the American sweetheart model (pictured on her own) sported a glamorous high-octane appeal, fit for only the bold and the beautiful.
Picciolli’s eventual Valentino-Brooke Shields tribute was one, which only a true fashion aficionado could readily identify. Worn by Ukranian model Julia Ratner (a one-time campaign girl for the storied house herself), the blush pink finale gown took reference from the rose-pink finale dress, which Shields donned for Mr Valentino’s Spring/Summer 1981 Haute Couture collection.
Under the influence of Picciolli, the updated rendition was undoubtedly more pared down (and refreshing!), but it also offered a much-needed pomp comparable with the original Roccoco-esque couture piece.
Rocking the look
The success of Valentino’s Rockstud Spike and Candystud purses are their cool attitude combined with street cred and a luxe factor.
Fashioned in a series of colour-blocking styles, inspired perhaps by the paintings of American artist Mark Rothko (one of the inspirations found on Piccioli’s mood boards too), the duo-coloured bags were marked with the subtle “V” for Valentino branding on the bag’s body and front flap.
In addition, the casual way of clutching these bags, which is by way of sliding one’s hand through the bag’s signature top-handle bar strap, further sealed the collection’s cool but dressily modern appeal.
Complementing the collection’s sports-inspired spirit was a series of crystal-embellished sneakers that perfectly juxtaposed girly dresses and separates, as well as a pair of roomy trousers and little black dress. Sandals were the collection’s other footwear of choice and they lent the grace of Grecian goddesses when worn with Piccioli’s billowing maxi day dresses and evening gowns.
Piccioli also introduced a classic pump that – truth be told – could have been worn with every look from the collection. Trimmed with a dainty bow and made in permutations of patent leather and velvet, the sensible heel heights added to the pump’s versatility and not to mention, ladylike desirability.
All images courtesy of Valentino