Since July, Italy’s Eternal City has been celebrating the return of Valentino’s emblematic couture event. Last Friday, creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli presented the house’s Haute Couture Fall 2022-23 collection at its headquarters located in Rome’s Piazza Mignanelli and Trinità dei Monti.
Models sashayed down the historic travertine stairs of the Spanish steps and reached the city’s iconic Piazza Mignanelli — historical architectural feats as a dramatic backdrop for the runway. A triumphant Piccioli, together with his couturiers, concluded the presentation of 102 looks to loud claps and cheers.
Though the brand traditionally presents couture in Paris, Rome has always been a creative hub. And since Valentino announced the show’s location with the Italian capital’s mayor Roberto Gualtieri in April, the event has been greatly anticipated by global fashion insiders and lovers.
Named “The Beginning,” Piccioli attached a sense of sophisticated significance to the return. “All my collections are inspired by Rome. It is an aesthetic fil rouge that constantly inhabits my imagination,” he told Jing Daily. For Piccioli, Rome is more nuanced than how it is culturally represented: opulence, art, ancient history and baroque. “For us, it is the city of our normal life,” he added. “Piazza Mignanelli, Piazza di Spagna, Trinità dei Monti are our coffee breaks, job meetings, and routinary walks.”
However, there’s simply no escaping Rome’s glamor. It was in this setting that on the big day, a starry guestlist descended on the city. And the magic was not lost on China. The appearance of actress Anne Hathaway, supermodel Naomi Campbell, and South Korean singer Hwasa caught Chinese audiences’ attention, sparking online buzz for the runway. As of publication, the Weibo hashtag #ValentinoFW22Couture has 25.9 million views, thanks to key looks which fashion KOLs have been reposting.
However, the show was more than just spectacular. In addition to paying homage to the iconic city, Piccioli continued his contextualization of haute couture — he considers these precisely crafted garments to be vehicles of social and political agendas.
Inclusivity was also top of mind. As he explained: “Haute Couture used to be for the few. Thanks to several initiatives, I hope my maison has contributed an idea that is becoming progressively clear, which is that [haute couture] pertains to culture in the wider sense and that everyone is welcomed to enjoy beauty in any possible way.”
This collection envisaged a historic moment: an open dialogue between Piccioli and Valentino Garavani. According to Piccioli, it was “not as an homage to the past falling into nostalgia, but a resignification of the iconic codes.” Indeed, looking through the maison’s archive, he put his own twist on the classic silhouettes. The opening look, a cape made of solid Valentino-red 3D taffeta roses, was inspired by the Fiesta dress Garavani created for his debut collection.
While the final image of the show —on the Spanish Steps — echoed the one presented 37 years ago, the narrative was different. Now, Valentino solidifies a brand identity rooted in Rome.
In fact, this concept of resignification, which characterizes Piccioli’s approach to Garavani’s legacy, is not unfamiliar to Chinese audiences. In December 2020, the exhibition Re-Signify debuted in Shanghai, the first event of its kind held by the brand in China. The second installment of the exhibition (which landed in Beijing in October 2021), featured connections between the maison’s haute couture and Chinese artists like Xu Zhen and Cao Fei.
Divided into different themed spaces, all of the classic Valentino elements (rivets, roses, and haute couture dresses) could be found there. The exhibitions encouraged visitors to let go of their past knowledge of fashion and embrace infinite possibilities. As Piccioli put it, this was accomplished “by avoiding an academic and celebratory approach, and developing a sense of wonder towards the signs that, drawn from the context of fashion or more simply from a dress, become democratic, open, for everyone.”
With Valentino’s expansion in the local market and its ambitious China strategy, the idea of giving new meaning can connect more shoppers with both the house’s past as well as what’s ahead. As CEO Jacopo Venturini disclosed in a previous interview with Jing Daily, the brand is considering reinforcing its presence in key cities such as Chengdu and Guangzhou, in addition to launching in Shenzhen and Wuhan. With the return to its homeland, the maison is kicking off a new beginning of haute couture, which is redefined by humanism and inclusivity.