Parisian cafés hold a particular charm for Pierpaolo Piccioli these days. The Valentino show he staged last month had models walking out of the Carré du Temple to stroll in the surrounding streets, where people were sitting in cafés enjoying the en plein air experience. For resort, which reads as a sort of prequel to the spring collection, the lookbook was shot in the Marais, a lively arrondissement populated by a hip and diverse crowd, in a café called Le Progrès. Its name resonates with Piccioli’s ongoing practice at the label, which he’s trying to steer forward without detracting from its history. “I want to bring life and a sense of reality into Valentino,” he said over Zoom from his studio in Rome. “Bringing it out of the atelier while retaining the savoir faire of the atelier.”
Piccioli has been at the maison long enough to know its codes by heart; he has lived through its glamourous heyday, when Valentino Garavani received guests at his Château de Wideville, whose grounds were as perfectly manicured as the high-maintenance crowd that walked them. It was a world as fabulous as it was secluded and inaccessible. “I don’t want to forget the castle, but you have to be rooted in the present,” he said. “I want to bring the castle to the street, so to speak, and bring the street to the castle.”
He calls this process re-signification; he feels that his duty as a fashion designer today is to be the vector of a vision of beauty in tune with the times we’re living in. “Beauty today means diversity and inclusivity; I want to encourage people to embrace it,” he said. Piccioli’s message is calibrated to appeal to younger generations, for which such values are a given; at Le Progrès, the cast included singer and TikTok-er Dixie D’Amelio; model and editor of the online platform the Youth Collective Project Amanda Prugnaud; filmmaker Christian Coppola; and actress Tina Kunakey.
Bringing la couture dans les rues might sound like a marketing formula, were it not for Piccioli’s authentic belief and determined efforts to make it happen. “The idea isn’t only metaphorical,” he said. “I wanted to do it both from a fashion perspective and from a physical standpoint.” After a year and a half of pandemic isolation, the point was to avoid going back to showing in atmospheric palazzos as if nothing happened. “You can’t just talk, you have to do. You have to dare to be more radical.”