It takes a special kind of show to bring the fashion industry—notorious for their collective steely demeanour—to a standing ovation. And yet if anyone were capable of such a feat, it would be Pierpaolo Piccioli presenting a haute couture outing for Valentino. Finishing off the haute couture Fall/Winter 2022-23 season in Rome, rather than the usual Paris, Piccioli set the scene for an event that would transcend the usual runway routine. And with a shimmering nighttime show set on the iconic Spanish Steps—and with a front row that included Anne Hathaway, Florence Pugh, Ariana DeBose, Andrew Garfield, and more—he did exactly that.
Titled “Valentino The Beginning”, the collection paid homage to Valentino’ 63-year history, right down to the location, which is where Valentino’s eponymous designer opened his first boutique in the 1960s. “I know that talking about beginnings sounds oxymoronic,” Piccioli explained at a press conference before the show. “But that’s the way I feel, because every beginning brings about the idea of a promise, and of the future… couture is a continuous beginning, as you have always to start anew, without predetermined patterns or maps. The same design can be interpreted in completely different ways six months or six years after it has been created. What makes the difference are the people who wear it, the human approach—and that’s the story I like to tell.”
That reverence for Valentino Garavani and the house he founded was also evidenced through the collections’ sprawling 103-look collection. The opening look, for example, was a reimagining of the iconic ‘Fiesta’ dress from Valentino’s first ever runway show, this time, the famous red floral strapless gown was super short and covered in 3D roses made of brilliant red taffeta. Other pieces—slinky ’80s mini dresses, sumptuous Art Deco detailing, sleek ’90s minimalism—traced the history of the brand, with chic modern updates and remarkable couture-level attention to detail (think: hand-dyed maribou trim, dramatic feather arrangements, and billowing ruffles of soft tulle).
The collection was also a testament to Piccioli’s radical desire to democratise fashion. This season, it felt as if conversations about size diversity had fallen entirely to the wayside, but Valentino’s inclusive casting felt like the perfect antidote to that outdated homogeny. The colour palette, filled with glorious magentas, lime greens, violets, teals, and blood reds, was equally joy-making: they were clothes that made you grin from ear to ear. Piccilo’s joi de vivre, always evident in his clothes, was so palpable that the notoriously hard to please fashion pack rose to their feet in a collective cheer when the designer and his team of ateliers took to the runway for a final bow. It was couture at its finest—something Pierpaolo Piccioli’s solo Valentino tenure has become synonymous with.