“I’m ready to be blown away. It’s always a surprise and something crazy,” said Adut Akech to Pierpaolo Piccioli via Zoom on the way to Valentino’s Couture happening. Rather than walking in a conventional show, she was heading off to appear in a Nick Knight-directed visual extravaganza, filmed at the legendary Cinecittà movie studios in Rome. There’s a life-sized replica of the Roman forum onsite but rather than show there, Valentino took us into a dark soundstage where, FKA Twigs’ feminist anthem “Mary Magdalene” blasted out as models stood under spotlights, on high plinths. The skirts of their vast, white Couture gowns tumbled to the floor far below. Above them, swung more models, clad like exotic crystalline birds or heavenly angels. How dramatic can a dress be when you don’t have to walk in it? The short answer? Extremely.
Freed from the catwalk format, Piccioli played with elongated silhouettes and vast volumes. This was Couture unhinged from reality. These were silhouettes that could only exist in dreams. All 15 looks were white, although Knight projected flower images onto some as a digital alternative to print. He deliberately glitched from one look to the next: Adut, Vittoria, Maria Carla, in ever more elaborate creations. One ruffled gown was made from 600m of fabric. Perhaps the ultimate conclusion of Couture is that it is (and it should be) fashion image-making at its purest. “This is a very extreme collection in all the senses,” said Piccioli, this time on a Skype call to Nick Knight which was broadcast on the house’s stories. “It started during lockdown,” he revealed, “and we end in that, but it’s a very good end.” This Couture was off the scale in every way.
by Claudia Croft