The word ‘minimalism’ isn’t the first that springs to mind when you think of Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino tenure. His last collection, for example, was almost entirely finished in a bold magenta huge called ‘Valentino Pink PP’. But Piccioli—one of the reigning masters of modern fashion—thrives on bucking expectations. Last collection was extravagant and OTT? Let this one be refined and pared-back.
For Spring Summer ’23, Piccioli concerned himself with the art of eveningwear, taking the notion of after-dark dressing back to basics both literally and figuratively. The opening looks, for example, included sheer beige ensembles that clung artfully to the body, some embellished with hand-dyed ostrich feathers. They evoked neglige or the underlining of some billowing couture gown. Elsewhere, simple-looking dresses (the construction is anything but) with bodices and full skirts were so meticulously constructed that they looked like pieces of wearable art.
A trio of shirting looks modernised the ‘white shirt and silk skirt’ evening look most often associated with Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. The shirts were boxy with sharp starched collars, styled with heavy satin skirts that fell above the ankle. Highlights included an astonishingly beautiful sequin-embellished cape dress in a punchy shade of lilac (Valentino Pink was nowhere to be seen on the runway—but everywhere on the front row), and the unexpected edition of logomania. The latter came courtesy of jumpsuits and billowing trench coats covered with the brand’s signature ‘V’ motif. Beauty legend Pat McGarth enhanced the look by delicately painting the print on models’ faces and hands.
Piccioli called this collection “Unboxing”, and his show notes referenced a “creative process [which] keeps track of what is taken away”. “Those empty spaces are not lack of content,” he wrote. “They declare personal choices. In those commissions, in those allusions, lays the depth of identity.” Which is a particularly eloquent way of saying that what you don’t show on a runway matters just as much as what you do. Thankfully, Piccioli is a master of editing.