For Valentino Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2020, Pierpaolo Piccioli dived a little deeper. Not quite content with surface level stuff (he is a brilliant mind, after all), he delved into the subconscious, exploring the dream-like quality of Couture as a result of our subliminal workings. “When you talk about couture, you talk about dreams, but dreams are the expression of something which is subconscious,” he told Sarah Mower backstage.
According to Piccioli, there’s a difference. Unlike the dresses Karl Lagerfeld dreamt up (Lagerfeld famously said he dreamed his dresses), Piccioli doesn’t dream his designs. “I dream sensations,” he informed Business of Fashion’s Tim Blanks. With this, a collection unfolded deep in the annals of Pierpaolo Piccioli’s subconscious – not his dreams. “I hate it when people talk about ‘storytelling.’ I am not a storyteller. I don’t have the feeling that Cristóbal Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Charles James, Mainbocher, whatever—I don’t feel they had stories of the season.”
So today in Paris, a different Valentino Couture. Yes, the colour was there – pistachio crêpe, taffy pink turtlenecks, lurid lilac in spades, even a gown drenched in Kool-Aid red – but this collection cultivated a far more mysterious breed of couture. It was Pierpaolo Piccioli’s prodigious volume and saturated colour – wrapped in an enigma, both sensual and abstruse.
New shapes formed – Stella Tenant walked in a black tulle dress which fanned out with fishtail-like effect, while the A-line was explored by way of haute flip skirts in trompe l’oeil bows and mint crêpe and dramatic mermaid gowns. But his signature balloon also made an appearance, as painterly orange goldfish swam on a bell-shaped cape worn by supermodel Irina Shayk,
As always, a lesson in detail, precision and patience. Highlights included extravagant plucked plumes, cummerbund-turned-sashed-bows, exquisite sculptural headpieces, scrolls, rolls and folds so grand and architecturally sound they were a feat unto themselves. Plus, of course, the opera gloves – in citron, cherry, crème – some even with contrast black bows and bulbous flowers at their opening, the operatic long-line glove fast-becoming a couture code of Piccioli’s Valentino.
As the Maison put it, “a mystery, hidden from the external world,” but one that Pierpaolo Piccioli unlocked both brilliantly and poignantly.