Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli unveiled the fashion house's autumn/winter 2021 haute couture collection in Venice on Thursday, and it was an explosion of colour.
Running to an impressive 84 looks for men and women, Piccioli's collection delivered romantic, yet modern silhouettes, nodding to the heritage of the house, while remaining resolutely his own.
Caped trouser suits, trapeze silhouettes, micro-puff ball dresses and mid-calf skirts all swept the runway, culminating in a parade of floating ball gowns, all in an uplifting palette of raspberry, lilac, chartreuse, aubergine, pea green, violet, burnt chocolate and orchid pink.
Philip Treacy-crafted wide hats covered in ostrich feathers undulated like jellyfish with every step, while long stoles slid off shoulders and long opera gloves in burnt copper, mustard or arctic blue covered arms.
Piccioli invited 16 artists to collaborate on select looks in the collection, shown in a centuries-old shipyard in Venice, to echo the cultured and artistic history of the city.
With the firmly held belief that “painting is to contemporary art what haute couture is to fashion”, Piccioli encouraged the artists to draw, sketch and paint designs. They were then brought to life by the atelier, with one seemingly simple look covered in fluid pen strokes, which turned out to be hand-stitching on silk so delicate it took almost 900 hours to complete.
Piccioli is a master of conjuring emotions, through the sheer visual beauty of his shows and the soaring live music he selects to accompany them.
With the voice of British singer Cosima echoing out across the water, the show, with its rich, decadent and ultimately joyful colours, felt like the end of one thing and the start of another.
Against the dark interior of the 500-year-old building, it seemed to offer a reminder that nothing stays for ever, and this, too, shall pass. With the dark menace of the pandemic still hovering over us all, this dazzling, astonishing and exquisitely beautiful collection feels like something akin to a rebirth.