In the spectacular setting of the Arno river in Florence, in the heart of the city, Palazzo Corsini opened its doors to Pitti Immagine Uomo's guest designer Valentino. For A/W12 the Valentino maison returned to the city where its story began in 1962 but rather than reminisce, Maria Grazia Chuii and Pierpolo Picciolo offered a tribute to men's Couture that looked to the future. The baroque style palace's frescoes were replaced with walls of LED lights which shimmered and dimmed to offer an imposing monochromatic footage of the presentation before the parade of minimalism dissected the display with their physical presence. It was all too easy to become entranced by this show within a show format but the clothes demanded the utmost concentration.
The design pair created a modernist mood with a concise, modular wardrobe of archetypal garments including the peacoat and sharp suiting that were restyled for the future. It felt both new and familiar. Chiuri and and Piccoli composed composed pieces of an iconographic sartorial collection that help establish contemporary masculinity without restricting it. Instead, it focusses on details and particular aspects that may not appear at first glance. Subtleness is the salient trait of the Valentino man.
Architectural shapes are achieved through subtraction, weight and unnecessary details are eliminated. Here, couture and sportswear techniques combine to create a fresh stylistic language. The design duo used the same language of couture as spoken by Valentino fifty years ago but applied it to a different moment to craft sharpness whilst sculpting a surprising lightness. The beauty of the construction can be seen underneath the fabric. The compact line of the jackets is obtained through fabric bonded to horsehair facings instead of linings. Heat bonded tape replaces seams on the shirting. Outerwear has a sleek, pure line as fitted peacoats have a small shoulders and the carcoat has greater volume at the back. Despite its undoubted modernism and pursuit for simplicity, the collection is far from cold. A subtle sense of surprise runs throughout with unusual fabric combinations, delicate shifts of hues in its urban camouflage and constructivist prints.
A fine thread linked the past, present and future as Chiuri and Piccioli gave their menswear a sense of Valentino's legacy.