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Sasha Kichigina Valentino PFW SS17 Spring 2017
Sasha KichiginaPhotography Greg Kessler, courtesy of Valentino Spa

Cult designer Zandra Rhodes inspires at Valentino

Fusing the designer’s acid bright colour palette with the art of Hieronymus Bosch, Pierpaolo Piccioli stages his first Valentino since Maria Grazia Chiuri’s exit

If there was any confusion about what distinctive attributes Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri respectively contributed to their joint Valentino creative directorship, the delineation was made much clearer at the house’s show this week. The show marked Piccioli’s first solo outing since Chiuri took the reins at Dior and it was hard not to immediately begin making comparisons between Valentino under the duo and now under the sole command of Piccioli.

Moved to the smaller and more intimate Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild and heralded by a specially composed soundtrack by French film composer Alexandre Desplat, what we got was something more spirited and a little less strict in its thematic rigour than previous Valentino collections. And yet at the same time, the collection didn’t stray too far from the Valentino that has risen to acclaim and commercial prosperity. The press notes began with the statement, “A new beginning demands a forgetfulness” – but you can be sure Piccioli certainly hasn’t forgotten the blueprint that has made the house so successful.

The history that Piccioli was referring to was the iconic triptych, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch, along with the portraiture of the Middle Ages and its colour palette. As laid out on the moodboards backstage, these famed works of art were pinned up alongside images of Dame Zandra Rhodes and her shock of pink hair. Piccioli took the inspiration one step further by inviting Rhodes to reinterpret the heavens and hells of Bosch with a series of prints in very saturated “acid and pungent” hues of pink and violet, echoing Rhodes’ coiffure as well as her illustrious archives.

“Piccioli took the inspiration one step further by inviting Rhodes to reinterpret the heavens and hells of Bosch with a series of prints in very saturated ‘acid and pungent’ hues of pink and violet”

Punk was also a key word in Piccioli’s vision for Valentino – not the banal surfaces of studs, leather and ripped fabrics, but the harder-to-detect spirit of the movement which was imbued in these beautiful garments. Something felt a bit unhinged in Piccioli’s floor-length frocks in diaphanous embroidered tulle (the connecting thread between Piccioli and Chiuri) and the tiers of lace and chiffon. While the pieces such as the coats in red patent or fuschia brocade hinted at a Valentino that was more rooted to the ground (quite literally in this instance with velvet sandals) and perhaps more rebellious than the serene Valentino woman in her long sleeves, high necks and neat collars.

The rapturous applause that accompanied Piccioli’s bow and the effusive Italian praise from Mr Valentino Garavani himself backstage after the show, further confirmed that a flying solo Piccioli will do just fine.