Cathy Horyn Fall 2022 Couture Review: Valentino

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Courtesy of Valentino

Valentino had chartered a plane to bring journalists from the Parisian haute couture collections to Rome on Thursday. It was just after 10 p.m. when we arrived at the hotel, but the heat was stifling, sticky. A friend and I immediately left for Emma, ​​a pizzeria near the Pantheon, it was still busy. Around midnight, the wind suddenly picked up, bringing a storm that would hit much of the coast. Friday dawned bright and cool, the perfect Italian summer day.

The last time I was in Rome for a Valentino extravaganza was in July 2007, when Valentino himself and his business partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, hosted not only a fashion show and a black-tie dinner for 1 000 guests, but also, the night before, a party at the ruins of the Temple of Venus. Designed by Oscar-winning set designer Dante Ferretti, it had fireworks illuminating the Colosseum and was attended by, among others, Silvio Berlusconi, the widow of the Shah of Iran, and a host of actors and top designers. The three-day affair reportedly cost $10 million.

Photo: Courtesy of Valentino

Pierpaolo Piccioli, who joined Valentino 23 years ago as an accessories designer and became the company’s sole creative director in 2016, was just putting on a show in the Spanish Steps, where Audrey Hepburn had his ice cream in roman holidays. In reality, however, it was quite an undertaking: 102 models had to descend the travertine steps near the Trinità dei Monti, hang a left at the bottom and continue on an elevated walkway in the square until they reached the headquarters of Valentino, the astonishing Palazzo Gabrielli Mignanelli. Then they had to repeat the course for the final. Some 750 guests, many of them fitted out at Valentino, would watch. Then everyone would be transported to the Baths of Caracalla, which last functioned as a public bath and swimming pool in the 6th century. It is now mainly used for cultural events.

Piccioli called his show “The Beginning,” which was simply his way of reflecting on life at Valentino and on the extraordinary taste of Valentino Garavani, who recently turned 90. (He wasn’t there on Friday night, but Giammetti did.) I doubt anyone who isn’t Roman, who isn’t at least steeped in that culture and its enormous gift for fun, can really relate what it means.

Of course, Piccioli tried to give a sense of Roman joy to his fashion, especially since 2017, the year he started injecting a massive dose of color into his tailoring, playing with floral patterns that suggested Pop Art, and including more casual (i.e. contemporary) styles like pants and tees, breaking away from Valentino high tradition.

Photo: Courtesy of Valentino

In the Spanish Steps, Piccioli had the contrasting colors, pale pinks, deep mauve and aqua. And it had Valentino’s signature elements, like the opening outfit, a taffeta mini dress that looked like a crush of red roses and was pulled from a 1959 Valentino. design called Fiesta. But Piccioli had something else that kept the collection from being too much of a “biggest hit”. The clothes looked unusually light and airy; more spring than fall, in fact. New styles ranged from ultra-cropped and ruffled, like a silver-embroidered mini dress with a cascade of soft white ruffles, to semi-sheer, like a long pale pink chiffon column with a matching yoke of tiny feathers and a sparkling beaded bodysuit. Lightness has been carried over to feathered Roman sandals.

Unity was also a theme of the show. Not only did Piccioli pull together a diverse cast of models (diverse in gender, race, and body type), but non-guests could also view the show from virtually every corner of the plaza. They leaned out of the windows. Piccioli recently emphasized the humanity of fashion, that a show should be more than beautiful, expensive clothes and rather a “rebuttal to the ugliness of the world,” as he put it the other night. It’s striking how many couture shows this season have tried to convey personal sentiment. Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry called his collection “Born Again,” after his Texas roots. At Balenciaga, Demna said she wanted to put herself more into this collection, which meant a darker outlook tied to new technologies. Was the cinematic flashback device at Maison Margiela, along with the firearms targeted, a way for John Galliano to describe what it has been like for him to constantly relive a mistake he made over 100 years ago? ten years ?

Photo: Courtesy of Valentino

At the end of the Valentino show, Piccioli descended the steps followed by tailors and seamstresses in their traditional blouses, a river of white crossing the colors. He went straight to Giammetti in the front row and hugged the older man.

” What can I say ? Giammetti said when I saw him later at the party – a buffet dinner in the vast baths. “It was very emotional for me. I saw so many details that paid homage to Valentino – the collars, the ruffles, the roses… And it was very touching when Pierpaolo came to kiss me, just because …because he also kissed Valentino.”

I asked him how Valentino was doing. “Very well,” he replied. “I mean, he’s 90 years old. He is a little fragile. We have tried to keep it very safe during these terrible times of the pandemic. But he’s fine. Giametti smiles. “Now he goes on the boat and enjoys the summer.”

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James C. Tibbs