Pierpaolo Piccioli designed the outfits to match a range of skin tones and body types.What gives? Valentino’s spring 2023 collection.
Creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli designed the outfits using stretchy underlayers, elasticated waists and generous volumes to ensure they had enough flexibility, or give, to accommodate a range of body shapes.
The idea came from the bustiers used to underpin couture gowns. In a spirit of inclusivity, Piccioli reimagined them as a kind of shapewear that he used on its own, for a minimalist second-skin effect, or as a base layer for everything from pleated cape dresses to sparkly cocktail frocks.
Some outfits were tonally matched to the wearer: Think a dark brown cropped shirt with a sweeping chiffon cape back; a pale beige top with slouchy pants dotted with ostrich feathers, or a sharp black minidress with a diagonal cutout back.
The sheaths came in five hues. “I love the idea of celebrating different kinds of bodies and different skin tones,” the designer said in a preview.
While there were women of all races on the runway, the brand didn’t cast any plus-size models. “I wanted different shapes of body but not showing the differences, trying to make them all beautiful and not to pick the one that has to be the big girl,” Piccioli explained.
It was a missed opportunity to illustrate how the designs might work for curvier physiques. Chances are it would have been terrific, especially since Piccioli stripped away all excess by using a single fabric for each look. “To me, minimalism means subtraction, and arriving to the purism,” he said.
In the case of his monogram outfits, the allover concept extended to the models’ faces: painting on the pattern took makeup artist Pat McGrath and her team more than five hours. The new logo motif, christened Valentino Toile Iconographe, appeared on ample shirt dresses, body stockings and adjustable circle skirts.
Sometimes Piccioli’s idea of going back to essentials involved using a sequined or embroidered fabric from head to toe. Standouts included a emerald green sequined cape dress.
Other times it involved deconstructing wardrobe staples like the white shirt, offered in a variety of generous cuts. “I feel that fashion is going sometimes too much back into exclusivity. I feel that idea of having a universal object like a white shirt for everyone is more interesting, more contemporary,” Piccioli said.
That’s not to say he skimped on the red-carpet stunners. Turning his back on last season’s neon-bright Valentino Pink PP shade, which was worn by a large proportion of guests like the uniform of a super-stylish cult, Piccioli turned out a sequence of flawless black evening looks. An edgy midriff-baring black trouser-and-cape combo had front-row guest Zendaya’s name all over it.
It was a shame that the brand, which is famous for its Rockstud ballet flats, chose to show the outfits with high heels. Several of the models struggled with their shoes, undercutting the impression of ease that was supposed to emanate from the clothes.
The general ambiance of the event, which for the last few seasons has drawn huge crowds of screaming onlookers, also contrasted with the serenity of the designs. To the delight of waiting fans, the models walked out in front of the building for the finale of the show.
Bringing the rarefied world of high fashion to the street is arguably the most inclusive move of all, but strip away all the spectacle and one was left with what truly matters: Beautiful clothes.