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Valentino's return to Milan

Pierpaolo Piccioli and the re-signification of brand identity

Valentino's return to Milan Pierpaolo Piccioli and the re-signification of brand identity

Valentino's latest show for the brand's SS21 collection has been striking on several levels. From a purely historical point of view, it represented the great return to Italy of a brand that for many years decided to show in Paris – a gesture of support to the Italian fashion world that, this year, has had to deal with many upheavals due to the pandemic and lockdown. From a deeper point of view, however, the show was as much a statement of the new ethical and aesthetic values that Pierpaolo Piccioli has imprinted on his brand, as a symbolic show in which the art direction, the set design and the looks have found an ideal and very balanced synthesis – although never coming out of the groove traced for the brand by Piccioli in recent years. This change has been based on two fundamental points: the return to nature and the re-signification.

The romantic character that is often attributed to Piccioli's designs has become, this season, a simple but dense symbol of the return to nature/normality of post-lockdown. The fascination that many have experienced, during the most acute phases of the pandemic, in seeing nature reappropriate the places previously occupied by men seems to have translated in two ways. The first, and most obvious, is in the set design of the show, set in the Macchi Foundries of Milan, an architectural metaphor of human activity, which have been filled with flowers by the artist Satoshi Kawamoto – a type of décor that while preserving all the finesse of the high-level productions to which fashion week has accustomed us, has nothing of their invasiveness and represents the concept of nature as a return to simplicity. In this sense, the clothes have also represented a return to nature, both through the large floral prints, and thanks to a series of fluid, soft silhouettes and perfectly balanced between practicality and art. 

As for the concept of "re-signification", it represents an update of the traditional codes of the maison reread by Piccioli during his experience as creative director of the brand, but it also means a re-adaptation of those same codes to a new rhythm and a new world. Piccioli's aspiration was to represent a generation (it is no coincidence that the music of the show is signed by Labrinth, the singer who signed the soundtrack of Euphoria) and his models are not professional but a cast of 66 ordinary people selected through a two-month process. A choice that shows the willingness to touch "the individual spirit of the people who [Valentino, ndr] dresses".

Normal people therefore different life paths, different emotions and identities, as well as different types of fragility and emotionality – all traits evoked by Piccioli in a series of ethereal looks, in which the male blouses are made of chiffon, the clothes become fluid like those of a Liberty painting and the lace become macro as well as the Rockstud studs. The "re-meaning" also touched on the jeans of the collection, produced in collaboration with Levi's, which was given a genderless update starting from the 517 model of the American brand.

The desire to equip the brand with new meanings therefore moves in sync with the desire to represent more closely the singular identities that Valentino can share, as well as the desire to tend an ear towards the changes of the world – offering a simplicity, a serenity of judgment and a type of emotionality that, starting from the very core of the brand's identity , are manifested through its designs and its entire world of aesthetic references.