Earthly Delight

October 8th, 2016  |  Published in Early Fall 2016

A new collection for the Italian luxury brand Valentino was extra intriguing this time around as it marked the beginning of the solo career of designer Pierpaolo Piccioli. He has been working for Valentino since 1999, as Co-Creative Director for the past eight years, but this was his first foray into the world of Valentino without Maria Grazia Chiuri.

There was a great deal of curiosity as most don’t quite know whose work was whose when they collaborated together. Can Pierpaolo carry Valentino alone? When the natural light streamed through the windows of Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, a new location for the Valentino ready to wear runway, an answer was given to this oft-asked question.

Yes, Pierpaolo Piccioli can lead the house of Valentino as its solo Creative Director. And P.S… the work produced is going to be stunning!

According to the designer, the inspiration behind his Spring 2017 collection was very specific: Fra Angelico, Nietzsche, Hieronymus Bosch, Gutenberg, and Zandra Rhodes. All were for varied reasons; Pierpaolo is a self-described student of history after all, but let’s focus on the combination of Hieronymus Bosch and Zandra Rhodes. That proved to be the most interesting when translated into clothing.

Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights served as the background for many of the garments in this collection. However, in a clear change of trajectory, the prints were crafted in collaboration with designer Zandra Rhodes. Thus they were less painterly and more stylized like they were drawn with a fine pencil. From far away the prints looked almost America Southwestern when placed on everything from blouses to sheer gowns (a now staple for the brand). If Bosch had been covered with the former Italian design duo a few seasons ago, it would have looked much more ethereal and whimsical.

But there was still plenty of whimsy to go around. Piccioli showed strength in his tulle creations incorporating the Renaissance-inspired heart and dagger motif. The placement of the motif was ingenious as the designer created Art Deco geometric patterns with them on his gowns so the eye had to look close to see the even more exquisite detail.

The Art Deco feel popped up a few more times throughout the line thanks to drop-waist silhouettes and a particularly interesting pair of trousers with a stitched geometric pattern embroidered in full.

In a final flourish to his first solo collection, we occasionally saw garments that were different from anything he has done previously for the brand: one-color, seemingly minimally-stitched crepe gowns that acted as a palette cleanser amongst his more ornate pieces. As he works more on his own, we hope we’ll see more of these types of pieces especially in the daywear he now clearly favors.

After this Paris Fashion Week, Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli and Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri have officially found their footing as independent designers. And what may be a pure coincidence, each began their show with a design featuring a heart at the forefront. Pierpaolo’s motif however was of a broken heart with a dagger through it. Very Renaissance indeed.


–       Jenny Perusek is a freelance Brand Manager, specializing in fashion and the creative arts.

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