Five thoughts on Valentino's dramatic autumn/winter 2021 runway presentation
Dark and devastating
Valentino's second co-ed runway presentation was an audience-less affair. Set within the walls of the Piccolo Teatro di Milano — specially reopened for the show — the staging was dimly lit, there was no extravagant set built, and the musical accompaniment was by British singer Cosima with members of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi in tow. Add to the mostly black-and-white autumn/winter 2021 collection, the show was punk in the most romantic way.
We need to talk about Cosima's vocals
To be honest (and with all due respect to the other musicians), Cosima could've done the entire performance acapella and it would still be as haunting. The singer opened with a cover of Sinéad O'Connor's 'Nothing Compares 2 U', starting the first verse completely on her own before going into two of her songs from her latest EP, THE FUN IS HERE?. The setlist ended with a cover of 'Wishing On A Star' followed by a continuation of 'Nothing Compares 2 U'.
Each song was done in such a stirring manner that it was quite a juxtaposition to the vibe of the collection. One probably would've expected a hardier and dramatic setlist to underscore the collection's dark palette, but therein lies creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli's punk intention — going against what's typically expected and in his own way.
It may be for winter but the lengths are shorter
Talking about punk, there was the conscious decision to shorten hems. Save for a few evening dresses, the women's looks consisted of pleated mini skirts with enough flare to catch hold of winter draughts, and outerwear slashed into capes and peacoats to ensure that at least the top half of one's body is kept comfortably warm. The saving grace (somewhat) are the collection's knee-high boots that are probably the most fashionable wellies you'd ever seen. Chunky-soled, they're completely decorated in petal-shaped rubber scales and come in either black or off-white.
The collection is mostly black-and-white but there's something that's left in the grey
It's been an inevitable move since combining both the womenswear and menswear collections into one showing. Piccioli is slowly introducing the idea of a shared wardrobe with colours, motifs and designs that easily transitioned across both genders. He's by no means decreeing that the collection's sheer dresses are unisex in nature (then again, a piece of clothing is just another piece of clothing) but whatever in the collection that a man would want to adopt into his own wardrobe, he could very well do so without it looking out of place. I'm personally gravitating towards look 12's ornately collared blouse because who — man or woman — could resist such a beautiful piece?
The Valentino Garavani Rockstud collection was back in full force for autumn/winter 2021. On something as sterile as a pair of nude pumps, Piccioli embellished the toes with multiple Rockstuds, perhaps as a gesture of punk rebellion, but also as a way of creating the perfect accompaniment to any staid outfit. Then there was the new application of a Rockstud treatment to the bag chain straps (as seen on new interpretations of the Supervee) for added edge but just as exquisite all the same.
Most importantly, the romance was kept alive
The hallmark of every Piccioli collection is the romanticism behind it. Autumn/winter 2021 may have been rather dark and considering the times we're in, rather bleak in its colour palette, yet the romantic nuances came in Piccioli's notion of what's needed and desired during this time: a collection that's wearable, desirable, easy-to-wear and transitional, as well as pieces that are not too far off from the comfortable attire we've mostly been living in. Sure, there were the ornate dresses with barely-there constructions and embellishments (the more literal notions of romanticism) but a more grounded collection that's almost a throwback to pre-pandemic days seems just as romantic now.