At Valentino’s Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023/24 Show, Pierpaolo Piccioli Creates a Fairy Tale in Chantilly
How Piccioli took a structure of elitism—a 19th century château in France—and redefined it with “everyday couture”.
Leave it to Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli to secure the location of the haute couture season. Guests were transported to a 19th century chateau in Chantilly—about 50 kilometres outside of Paris—on July 5, a locale the creative director says is “unanchored to geographies or eras, but expressive of an idea of life.” Formerly emblematic of notions of elitism and status, according to Piccioli, a Château can today reject its history, be recalibrated and can exist as a place for everyone.
Enter Valentino’s Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023/34 collection, “Un Château”, an outing which began so markedly simply with Kaia Gerber walking the sunlit castle’s drawbridge in denim, her vintage Levi’s a canvas to high impact jewels. Haute Couture—especially Valentino Haute Couture—was never a term you’d place next to the word “simplicity”, and yet somehow Piccioli fused the two.
First-look gowns were streamlined to follow the body’s form. (See a plunging red felt dress, a loose-fitting silk white number with an asymmetrical hem, and relaxed tailored pants.) Seams were reduced, fabrics were lightened, dresses had pockets, and gold flats were liberating. It was unexpected.
“Within complexity—the architectural complexity of a Château, the perceived complexity of Haute Couture—a pure simplicity can be found,” the show notes read next to a quote from Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi: “Simplicity Is Complexity Resolved.’’
But all of sudden, Piccioli’s signature extravagance and colour transpired: Button downed blouses transmuted to ballgowns, bubble dresses arrived with feathers, there were silver sequins, and plush marabou. There were capes, mirrored appliqués and gilded headpieces—a sort of minimalised maximalism which nodded to both the baroque period and the types of characters of the upper echelons who would swan about the ornate hallways of the château. All while simultaneously setting fire to the stiff hierarchies of yore.
It was here Piccioli achieved his vision: an arena of inclusiveness: Couture for the everyday—and then couture for the fairy tale.
“A tension is explored between an environment and the figures within—people pass from interior grandeur to the freedom of nature, their clothes emblematic of the duality of this transition,” the notes conclude. “Here, Un Château becomes an arena for the amplification of ideas, one open and inclusive, for all.”