Following its cinematic display at the Château de Chantilly last season, Valentino opted for the hushed intimacy of its salons on Place Vendôme to showcase its spring haute couture collection.
Two years ago, when the Italian house last staged a show at its historic headquarters, big gatherings were still out of favor due to the aftermath of COVID-19. This time around, creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli chose the setting to underline the one-to-one approach that underpins the “sacred process” of couture.
More from WWD
“I want the kind of crowd that used to be in the salon de couture when couture was born, but with different kinds of clothes that belong to this time, because I want all of this process of couture to become contemporary,” he explained in a preview.
Except these days, that crowd comes with a crowd of its own. Screaming fans greeted the arrival of stars including Jennifer Lopez, Florence Pugh and Kylie Jenner, joined by her mini-me daughter Stormi Webster, who was making her front row debut. Burly bodyguards prevented other guests from entering the reception room where they sat.
The golden age of couture in the 1950s and ‘60s is having a pop culture moment, thanks to TV shows like “Cristóbal Balenciaga” and “The New Look,” and designers in Paris are taking notice.
“These series help to understand what the couture world is, because people don’t really understand actually the real difference between ready-to-wear and couture,” Piccioli noted. “Couture is made to measure, so that’s the main difference. It’s specifically made on you so it’s the ultimate personal experience.”
His lineup included the requisite red carpet stunners, but also indulged in a quirky day wardrobe in unusual volumes and colors. Oversize jackets, palazzo pants, scooped vests, fishtail skirts and duster coats came in shades like chartreuse, oxblood, lime, putty, mustard and sage.
Piccioli skipped elaborate embroideries, but his outfits were no less labor-intensive. Small oblong discs were bonded with patent leather to resemble crocodile skin on a glossy green men’s coat, while a barely there chiffon top sprouted tiny white feathers that were actually made from cut organza. “The magic comes from the illusion,” Piccioli said.
Conversely, a peacock green silk dress that looked like it was simply draped on the body takes a lifetime of practice to achieve. At the Valentino atelier in Rome, 81-year-old Antonietta de Angelis is the master of these sleight-of-hand creations, Piccioli said.
“I know all of them. I know their name. I know their life,” he said of his team, who all took a bow at the end of the show. “For me, they are not ‘hands.’ I hate when French people called them ‘petites mains’ because I feel that they are humans and they project their life into the clothes.”
In the run-up to the show, two seamstresses were busy placing chiffon ruffles one by one on a silver embroidered camisole dress. Meanwhile, it took four people to hand-pleat the yards of forest green jersey on the bodice of a rippling apron dress.
With 64 looks, the collection offered a dizzying array of options for awards season, including a stunning black velvet cutout dress trailing a long silk chiffon stole.
Piccioli said each piece that comes out of his workshop is unique, since no two people execute his sketches the same way — and that’s just how he likes it. “If you don’t project your own experience, your own life, your humanity into what you’re doing, you will never feel the soul,” he said.
At close range, you could feel the care in every stitch.
Launch Gallery: Valentino Couture Spring 2024
Best of WWD