Image by Jordan Nix

VALENTINO SS21: A HOMAGE TO HOME

Martina Totaro

The Coronavirus has affected every individual and every company uniquely. Regardless of our differences, we are all trying to explore how we may fit into this new, different world. In a moment of crisis and fear, it is natural to seek comfort in what we once knew to reconnect with the pieces of ourselves we lost along the way. Alessandro Michele and Pier Paolo Piccioli narrate what can happen when we feel a need to return to our metaphorical home. 

Alessandro Michele, creative director for Gucci since 2015, spoke of this disorientation from a spiritual perspective. On May 16 of this year, he published a summary of his feelings on Instagram. He declared to the world his intention to detach Gucci from the grandiosity that, according to him, has overpowered the true sense of his calling. He reasoned that we have lost touch with nature and the many beauties of life in favor of a commercial and impersonal perspective of fashion. In a way, a minimalistic approach to the many demanding formalities of the industry may truly highlight the virtues that we once had and now have lost.

Months later, Pier Paolo Piccioli returned Valentino to its Milano roots after a decade in Paris, for the Maison's first live display following the lockdown. Valentino proposed a young and diverse casting, live music from Labirinth (the composer of the acclaimed TV series Euphoria), and as a location an old Milan refinery. The location with its naked steel and cement surroundings emphasized the natural and inclusive spirit of the collection. Valentino’s well-known codes of chiffon, colorful prints and lace found their way to this unusual location: a factory, a temple of democracy, as opposed to the red carpets and villas that remind us of exclusivity and power. In a moment of terror, Piccioli embraced what we have all been feeling in these last months: our renewed fear of death, and the consequent necessity to feel connected with the people around us, lest we leave this world full of arrogance and resentment. He abandoned the exclusivity that has accompanied each Maison throughout history, allowing us all to reconvene in a moment of sincerity to feel connected to each other.

This is the very same need that Alessandro Michele spoke about. He said, “through sorrow we can look at our recent past with a critical eye. At our list of debts, misunderstandings, false notes, mistakes”, “I feel the need to renew a bond, purifying the essential by getting rid of the unnecessary”. If Piccioli felt in the same way at all, he demonstrated his drive to make a change this September in Milan.

This is not to be taken for granted. The pandemic has had a personal impact on each of our spirits. Piccioli must have certainly felt the ground shifting under him in this moment of uncertainty, both in his personal life and as a creative director. A more natural response would be to retreat into one’s shell in search of safety and comfort, of the things we know. Instead, he took those very things that we’ve always known and repurposed them according to the needs of today. From differently envisioned stylistic codes to a return to Valentino’s motherland, it took bravery and vision to take action towards the version of the brand that he envisions for our new world. The sincerity and vulnerability with which he approached his audience resulted in tremendous support, to the point that the Valentino fashion show is being frequently praised as this season’s best Milan show.

 A fashion show is much like a speech, or an artistic performance, in which the creator has the unique and precious opportunity to speak directly to the audience: they will tell us everything we need to know about the brand’s new outlook, their values, and their aims. The key to this particular fashion show’s enormous success, in my view, was its inclusivity. This feature of inclusivity was emulated in each aspect of the show, from its casting to its location to its audience, and this vision hit home for countless people.

This arrived in an extremely fragile moment for all of society. During the lockdown, we became accustomed to fear and isolation. September was the true test of whether our lives could be normal again. Piccioli responded to this uncertainty with an enthusiastic celebration of community and gave us the interpretation of Valentino that we truly needed.