Pierpaolo Piccioli, the Creative Director at Valentino, talks creative freedom and the evolving look at Valentino.
It has only been nine months since the cataclysmic news that Maria Grazia Chiuri was leaving Valentino to join rival house Dior as the brand’s first female creative director, leaving Pierpaolo Piccioli, Chiuri’s design partner of 17 years, to take the reins as sole creative director. However, Piccioli established himself brilliantly, presenting his first solo collection to rave reviews at Spring Summer fashion week in Paris, staging his first Pre-Fall show in New York, and wowing with an Haute Couture collection of masterpieces, that combined the ethereal with a touch of surreal.
Pierpaolo Piccioli began his long and remarkably harmonious professional relationship with Maria Grazia Chiuri at fashion college, going on to work together since the late 1980s, when he joined her at Fendi. There they worked closely propelling the business into a global brand. Following the transformative magic they sprinkled on the accessories at Fendi, they were personally poached by Valentino in 1999 to cast the same creative charm to his bags, working with Valentino himself for nine years, before rising the ranks to Creative Directors of the house.
As Piccioli steps out on his own, with most recently an Haute Couture collection of billowing floor-length gowns embellished with flowers and sequins, and dreamy column dresses in straight, classical forms, his style still remains opulent, luxurious and innately feminine, but now the classic style has a contemporary allure. Here Piccioli exclusively shares with us what inspired and evoked this intimate, fairytale world, together with the changes he has embraced in the creative process as he designs on his own.
You were quoted once saying that ‘Change is a statement’, how have you found the change from working as part of a duo, to becoming sole creative director? Do you miss having a partner to bounce ideas off and collaborate with?
My approach, and the creative process has definitely changed, as I have the possibility to be more direct. When you have a partner, you share and elaborate ideas together, concepts are filtered, elaborated, and moderated. Hiccups are entirely normal in a dual creative process. Now I feel this process has become more fluid. I can focus solely on my personal emotions, and deliver what I initially envisioned with no filters. I wanted to stay close to my aesthetic, feeling free to express the values of Maison Valentino in a very intimate way.
Your Spring Summer couture collection was clearly a collage of mixed times and eras. How do art and history inspire you, and which era do you find timelessly inspiring?
Art and history are a timeless source of inspiration. Each era in history is inspiring for the emotional impact it still arouses today. What I find inspiring is the transitional period that marks a moment of transformation. Rules are re-written and humans disengage from the ties of the past. This is why I’m always looking at highlighting the importance of change as a value. Finding new languages and formats, I try to evolve codes through my creative vision.
In your current couture collection, we felt an understated and subtler style. Tell us more about this.
This collection was about intimacy, and was very personal. Above all I was looking for lightness and purity of the shapes, like in the ethereal silhouettes of the Roman and Greek goddesses. I wanted to go back to the Greek mythology, and the eternal conflict among the power of divine and the fragility of us humans. In each dress, I wanted to highlight this duality, eternal and perishable, spiritual and earthly.
When designing new collections, how do you balance the heritage of the brand together with moving the house forward? Are there specific couture codes?
I believe in the importance of heritage, it’s the backbone of a brand identity. My aim is to develop Valentino in a way that echoes its core values, moving its style in a new direction without being nostalgic. It’s like looking at a new picture of a place you visited years before. It’s different but not all has changed. Some elements stay unaltered, and you still feel the same emotional connection.
In your personal life, you choose to live in a city that is remote from fashion circles, does this help your creative process and keep you in touch with reality?
In our business, there is a risk of feeling in a fish bowl, exposed to everyone’s eyes, with no place to retreat. This is why I made a choice far removed from what is usually expected from a Creative Director in the fashion industry. For me it’s refreshing to step out and come back home to Nettuno, it gives me the breathing space to divest of set categories and be myself.
You are known to always deliver the values you believe in. Can you share with us what your core ones are?
Family, friendship, respect, and dignity. These values are the most important for me to live by, and the ones I want to pass along to my children and everyone in my life. Even in fashion I want to deliver a message that goes beyond clothes and triggers emotions. I believe today that the true power is to be able to share emotions, not mask them. It is to be who you are without dissimulation, and respect others for who they truly are.
Valentino, to many, is about creating dreams in every piece. What do you still dream to achieve at the Maison, and can you tell us about your future vision for the brand?
I don’t set any boundaries. I want to continue and follow the path initiated, by being true to Maison Valentino and to myself, because you never know what the future holds and what is going to change later in time. My idea is to evolve the narration initiated years ago, in an authentic way, mutating the original tale into something new and topical.
In a world where everything is becoming digital, what impact has social media made in your life?
The immediacy of social media has definitely brought a transformation in the way we communicate and how we deliver our message to people. Recently, I took over our official Maison Valentino Instagram page, and I really enjoyed making instastories to show my point of view behind the scenes. Social media has modified our communications and our interactions alike. But at times, this might become a risky game, and you can lose yourself. It’s important to come back to authenticity.
Getting Personal with Pierpaolo Piccioli
What is your personal motto?
Nothing is impossible.
What is your greatest fear?
That something bad could happen to the people I love.
Your inspiring role model?
It is hard to mention just one, there are many.
What is your favourite book?
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Your perfect holiday getaway would be?
At home, by the seaside, with my family and friends.
by Lara Mansour Sawaya