Thursday 23rd January

| BY Claudia Croft

Valentino: Couture SS20

Pierpaolo Piccioli changed it up with his latest Valentino couture collection. Instead of pursuing a single story or theme, he became a fabric whisperer, designing whatever each bolt of tulle, satin, faille, cigaline or radzimir suggested to him. He freed his mind, defied expectations and experimented.

So instead of the imposing taffeta couture volumes of the past few seasons, he took the silhouette in and up. “Neat and vertical,” is how he described the parade of fishtail gowns, pencil dresses and fitted bustiers all rendered in the most exquisite textiles. These lean, elegant silhouettes, some topped off with artfully lacquered bouffant helmets spoke to an archetypal hauteness but there was a rebellious undercurrent. This was a collection full of invention. One black leather dirndl skirt was entirely embellished with bows which gradually got larger as they neared the hem. Another gown was fashioned from individual scales of scalloped organza stitched together. There were surprising combinations too, like the pink silk pussy-bow blouse and red opera gloves gleefully disrupting the austerity of a black fishtail gown.

This designer idolises his atelier. Last season he took his bow with the 80 or so artisans who create his designs. This season felt like an ode to them, their individuality and the personal flair they bring to every piece. The dresses were named after the people who made them. The designer quoted Carl Jung: “uniqueness is what makes all human beings identical.” Uniqueness is also the essence of couture – one-offs, made by hand to perfectly fit one person. PPP is a man who puts humanity at the heart of everything he does. This was a celebration of the couture collective.

Photographs by Jason Lloyd-Evans.