Valentino: Couture AW22

Down the steps they came, Pierpaolo Piccioli’s band of Valentino beauties. The designer staged his couture show on Rome’s iconic Spanish Steps, a stone’s throw from the Valentino atelier and flagship boutique.

It was a show that drew links between the past of the Valentino brand which was founded in 1959, and its current designer Pierpaolo Piccioli.

He called the show The Beginning and that’s where it started. The opening look – a ball of red silk roses worn over a red playsuit, was a 21st century version of a look from Valentino Garavani’s debut collection. What followed was an ode to the Valentino world, which revolves around beauty and exquisite artisanship, but under Pierpaolo Piccioli has also come to represent an openness and generosity of spirit. In his hands, fashion is a force for change and beauty has healing powers. “Fashion can have a strong say on social issues like acceptance of diversity, or standing for human rights,” he said on the soft power of a big house. The designer’s models represented a great diversity of body shape, ethnicity, age and gender. Each had a story to tell: from the girl who used to be anorexic but recovered and is now pursuing a successful plus-size career to another with vitiligo and several non-binary models. For Piccioli, beauty is not escapist, it is political. He described his beauty as anti-conservative, crafted to confront ugly world events and ideologies which he labelled as “anti-democratic idiocy”.

The craft on display was mesmerising. One weightless cape was made from hundreds of scales of black and white organza and lace, layered individually into a geometric pattern inspired by ancient Roman mosaic floors. There were gowns galore: some light as air, others busting with vivid 3D plumage or literally dripping in dazzling crystal embroidery. There were hand-sequinned suits and men’s couture, a recent and growing addition to the Valentino world. He took his bow with his entire atelier.

When Piccioli was a student in Rome, he saw a fashion show on the Spanish steps called Donna Sotto Le Stelle (Woman Under the Stars). Watching from behind the barriers, on Plaza di Spagna, it was the spark that lit his ambition in life. From then on, he knew what he wanted to do and feeling was so strong that he wanted to pass it on to a new generation. In another act of generosity he invited 120 students from Rome’s fashion schools to the show. What they saw, in terms of artistry, skill and beauty couldn’t fail to inspire.

Photography courtesy of Valentino.

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