all the world's a stage: elizabethan punk at valentino's couture show
'And one man in his time plays many parts,' Shakespeare wrote. As Valentino's Elizabethan couture collection paid tribute to the 400th anniversary of his death, those words could mean a lot for Maria Grazia Chiuri, said to be the new designer at Dior...
Standing ovations are a rarity in fashion these days where perpetually unimpressed showgoers, all too used to the phantom clappers of Milan, won't get up for anyone--even Lil'Wayne and Busta Rhymes, who've tried to no avail at the past two Philipp Plein men's shows. The exception, it would appear, is Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, who didn't just get their Valentino haute couture clients on their feet on Wednesday evening in Paris, but also - lo and behold - the press. Their Elizabethan punk collection was totally amazing, but it was no doubt the very pressing rumours of Chiuri's new job as creative director for Dior that got guests all emotional. That, and a Romeo & Juliet soundtrack that mixed Prokofiev's epically dramatic ballet score with Des'ree's heart-rending Kissing You from the Baz Luhrmann film.
It was emotional because the duo's Valentino story is as rare as a standing ovation: since they were promoted from accessory designers to creative directors in 2008, their success stories at the house have known no end. This year, for instance, the company reached its first-ever one-billion-dollar revenue thanks to Chiuri and Piccioli's persistence and continuity. Their haute couture as well as the craft-centric and overwhelmingly beautiful demi-couture that defines their ready-to-wear and menswear have influenced an entire industry where ideas of opulent craft and couture are now the fashion zeitgeist. But like their Shakespearean collection last night - a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of his death this year - Chiuri and Piccioli's work hasn't just rested of the laurels of la dolce vita--the beautiful life. It has dived into history and not just their own Italian one. They've challenged cultural codes and taboos with Pan-African tribal references and Native American influences in a time when cultural appropriation has been fashion's absolute danger zone. And they've got away with it, not just because their work was ravishing, but because everything Chiuri and Piccioli do is backed up by their astute observations and intellectual approach to fashion. There's a lot of heart in Valentino.
If rumours and true and they are indeed parting ways - making Chiuri the first female head of Dior - this collection was a fitting end to a new era of Valentino, which will undoubtedly continue to thrive under Piccioli's next chapter, o solo mio. In the words of Elizabeth I: "The end crowneth the work."
Text Anders Christian Madsen