Valentino Pierpaolo Piccioli Seeks to Redefine Haute Couture


When life in lockdown feels sedentary, great fashion can entice you from the lull of a couch-dwelling existence, the spectacle of a runway show a reminder of what exists beyond sweatpants. Haute couture in particular sits at the opposite end of the “effort” spectrum, serving as a thrilling example of a master at work. At the helm of Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli has lent his deft hands as the sole creative director for the past five years, and the parameters of his creativity are not diminishing. This season, he’s redefining them.

For the Italian fashion house’s spring-summer 2021 haute couture collection, Piccioli sought “to reset and reprogram couture of today” in order to update “classic rituals and processes through garments designed to express oneself, as anyone desires.” Specifically, this show aims for inclusivity, presenting couture as non-gendered with unisex casting. “Women, men: naturally, smoothly.”

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The closing look

Courtesy of Valentino

A backstage pass to the makeup in process

Courtesy of Valentino

Sky-high heels from the SS21 haute couture collection

Courtesy of Valentino

A celebration of Valentino’s seamstresses

Courtesy of Valentino

Presented at the opulent Sala Grande of the Galleria Colonna in Rome, Italy, the collection offers an artful display of the many, many talents of the seamstresses, which the brand highlighted during its presentation. We see Piccioli’s proficiency in color offsetting neon fuchsia, aquamarine, and fiery oranges with creamy whites and soft neutrals. Details come in oversized, with wool rosettes proudly embellishing tan coats and large paillettes dripping down mini dresses. Leather opera gloves are styled with gowns and officewear alike, because the accessory is a casual choice for the couture customer. Complex woven and beaded latticework layers over lamé turtlenecks. To contrast the voluminous silhouettes, the models teeter on heels even Lady Gaga would reconsider. The makeup is a singular force of luxury, featuring gilded faces that have become a mainstay of Valentino runway beauty.

The showcase is rich yet simple, set to music by Robert Del Naja. Piccioli named the show Code Temporal in order to address the shifting definitions of not just couture, but humans themselves: “The rituals, the process, and the values of Couture are timeless,” he said. They celebrate the human: the mind that conceives and the hand that creates and gives value.”

Justine Carreon is the market editor at ELLE.com covering fashion, Dutch ovens, and fashion again.

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