AT THE Valentino show, a luminous white neon sign read, “The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive.” Artist Robert Montgomery‘s poignant words resonated throughout the room at Les Invalides as a soft voice overhead read out a love poem. This season, the director of Valentino Pierpaolo Piccioli turned to love. Yes, love. A source of inspiration so ubiquitous that when poorly executed, it easily slips into the categories of being maudlin and cringe-worthy, or hackneyed and boring. Yet, Piccioli was able to turn the oft-cited idea into something so poetic and moving that some audience members were said to tear.
Love revealed itself in full force, declared most explicitly in collages of Undercover‘s Jun Takahashi (one of Piccioli’s ongoing collaborations for the brand) which consisted of kissing statues and red roses. They decorated most of the collection, appearing both on structured trench coats and flowing dresses alike.
The floral leitmotif was also repeated by Piccioli himself, articulated in printed and embroidered chiffons and silks. If the proclamation of love through such imagery was not clear enough, Piccioli also adorned several pieces with tender odes of adulation. “There is a forever beyond the sky, I think we should go there tonight”, read one.
The symbolic and textual calls to love all read like public confessions of devotion that could teeter into the danger zone of cloying and annoying saccharine sweetness. But Piccioli tempered that through his deft hand: that is, his sheer talent in designing, cutting and manipulating fabric in a way that almost invokes the divine. Taking a leaf from his own book and following in the vein of his haute couture collections which have been a major hit among fashion critics and actresses at awards shows, Piccioli extracted and translated the codes of haute couture for everyday wearability.
Take, for instance, the sculptural and billowing contours that hallmark his couture, that were recast as kaftan-like dresses or short, chic town coats. The shapely cloche-bucket hat hybrids that were paired with most outfits were very sellable too.
To close the show: a pop paean of love, Des’ree’s I’m Kissing You, resounded as models glided down the runway in a slew of gossamer and taffeta gowns. The sight was an utter beauty to behold, especially when coupled with the singer’s yearning vibratos. This is what Piccioli is known for and does best: elevating fashion into art and poetry in their traditional sense of evoking beauty and divinity. If this is not love, then we don’t know what is.
by Kay Ean Leong