Pierpaolo Piccioli is reading the room. In a social climate where occasions that require a floor-skimming gown or an intricate cocktail dress are few and far between, the Valentino creative director has made a deft creative decision for his spring ’21 collection: casual couture. Debuted in Milan overnight (a mark of solidarity with Picciolo’s home country—the brand usually shows in Paris), the Valentino show debuted an unlikely collaboration with Levis.
Valentino worked with Levis on a reimagining of their iconic 517s—a unisex cut that featured a high waist and slight bootleg flair. The final result were styled on the runway with oversized sheer ruffled blouses in a palette of coffee, hazelnut and caramel, and reworked Rockstud sandals. The overall look achieved that remarkable thing only certain looks achieve each season: It encapsulated exactly how women want to dress right now.
So why Levis, why now? Valentino haven’t made clear whether or not their partnership with Levis was in the works before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, but the timing is certainly prescient. The fashion industry was hit particularly hard by this pandemic, and while people haven’t stopped shopping entirely, they have changed their consumption habits to align with a global recession. The democratisation of a brand as exclusive as Valentino through a collaboration with a universally beloved (and accessibly priced) company like Levis is Pierpaolo Piccioli showcasing that he isn’t out of touch with the times.
Plus, Levi 517s were first launched in 1969—a time of political unrest not dissimilar to our own. The free-love influence of the late ’60s, which perhaps paid homage to an era of hope and optimism, a theme running through the S/S ’21 season, was seen elsewhere in the collection courtesy of fringing, floral motifs and crochet.
Of course, there were also floor-skimming gowns and intricate cocktail dresses (this is Valentino we’re talking about). The designers’ signature voluminous silhouettes, featuring remarkable colour palettes and large graphic prints were on full display. But for once it was the more wearable, dare we say, utilitarian pieces that captured the imagination—the oversized silk button-down shirts in bubblegum pink and lavender, for example.
Whether Pierpaolo was trying to make a profound statement with the Levis collaboration (blue denim has long been seen as the uniform of working people), or whether he simply loves a good 517 is somewhat irrelevant. At a time where we have a renewed cultural appreciation for simplicity, they were the perfect addition to yet another sublime collection.