In 2008, a movie was released called ‘Valentino: The Last Emperor”. A look at the life of legendary fashion designer Valentino and the painful handover of his 30+ year reign in the industry to the hungry group waiting in the wings to take over his work. Together with his partner, Valentino allowed cameras into his life as this historical moment took place. It was dramatic, emotional and for those who understand the pressures of the industry, they witnessed the struggle as Valentino, who has only ever known fashion, moved on with resistance and pride.
Today, Valentino is run by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli whose stylistic approach is defined by their sense of contemporary nourished by contrasts and love for a mélange of visual, artistic and literary inputs synthesized in a vibrant and distinctive style. A fusion of styles and languages is the key to their method. Maria Grazia and Pierpaolo both studied at the European Institute of Design in Rome and crossed paths in Fendi’s design studio. They immediately worked well together and their strong professional relationship has always been based on dialog, mutual admiration, and a focus on the present.
The pursuit of perfection is Valentino’s current M.O. The show the label staged at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild was gorgeous, full of exquisite clothes worn by boys with not a hair out of place. It snapped into focus ever more forcefully the emphasis Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli put on the idea of couture, for menswear as much as for women’s. Men’s couture has its own long history and tradition: It’s bespoke, and its hometown is London. That city was the inspiration for their new collection, though its young-gun avatars were more Carnaby Street than Savile Row. There was a wash of Italian suaveness over the whole range, but the designers’ mood boards made the cultural mash-up clear: Antonioni here, Mick Jagger in his early, snarling years there. Elsewhere were his fellow Angry Young standard-bearers of London’s swinging sixties.
The collective gasp of the audience confirmed a hit. That felt right, though the London inspiration might just as easily have invited a yelp. The threat of danger and spleen attended the Angry Young Men, who never worried about mussing their menswear. That’s a school of thought it might be interesting to see explored. In the meantime, Valentino remains more Sunday morning than Saturday night.