Valentino Resort 2023

It wasn’t lost on anyone attending Paris fashion week this season that shows are growing into pop culture events ever closer to the world of entertainment, with flocks of multi-hyphenate celebrities (and their vast entourages) taking over the front rows, and unleashing frenzy outside the venues and on social media. Even A-list influencers, a term that today gives off a slight scent of the passé, receded into the shadows of less prominent seat assignments. Is fashion (as in clothing) fading into a sort of corollary to the buzz generated by these theatrics, with designers and creative directors adding the role of impresario to their CVs? Are garments turning into the sidelined Cinderellas of fashion month?

The Valentino show was definitely one of the season’s blockbusters, where the scene was so hyped as to obfuscate at times the perception of the clothes’ obvious beauty. So a conversation with Pierpaolo Piccioli about resort was timely, as the collection was conceived as a precursor to the spring 2023 outing. Stripped of the stagecraft of the show, it was representative of Piccioli’s line of thought, both conceptual and visual.

“Fashion shows are there to solidify the narration around your values and your identity,” Piccioli contended during a Zoom call from his studio in Rome. “Resort is the moment when fashion speaks its own language. There’s no storytelling here, just work on construction, cut, silhouettes, color. It’s just moda, fashion, in its purest self. Of course, for me, clothes are always about how real people inhabit them.” For Piccioli, there’s no moda without humanity.

He named the collection Surfaces, emphasizing the visuals of an all-over, head-to-toe silhouette where textures and shapes were turned into a sort of minimal continuum. While Piccioli has been toying around with minimalism for quite some time as a way to highlight the individuality of the wearer—“you reduce the excess on the garment to spotlight the attention on the face,” he said—it’s actually a concept rooted in Valentino Garavani’s 1960s aesthetics, when lines were pure, volumes were close to the body, and decoration was kept to a minimum. Fluidity was an element of sensuality that didn’t detract from the purity of design.

Resort was in conversation with those style fundamentals. At the spring show Piccioli indulged in fluidity and movement enhanced by an abundance of sequined shine, but here he kept the silhouette neat, slim, and very short. Trim contours and head-to-toe maximalist surfaces were in evidence, for example, in a black macramé lace slip dress paired with matching thigh-high legging/boots, or in a mini shift dress encrusted with white lace, which somehow stretched into matching stocking/boots edged with leather. Piccioli said that he wanted the lace—a quintessential Valentino accent—to be not just a pretty decoration, but blown-up and maximized rather unapologetically into a total, pervasive surface.

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