Valentino’s divine diversity in haute couture
Now that’s what most observers could only describe as a great fashion moment. A posse of beauties dressed in Valentino, gathering under the soaring atrium of a famed Paris mansion; dozens more models cheering on from upper galleries; deafening applause; and Naomi Campbell – the star of an overwhelmingly black cast – embracing couturier Pierpaolo Piccioli at the finale.
A modernist classic fashion statement of hyper-large flowing, voluptuous gowns in silken florals – entirely in sync with the single biggest trend of this season’s couture – the longing for nature. An audience that rose en masse to greet Piccioli, embracing his message of diversity and difference. Fashion being more than just clothes; taking a stand for inclusion and tolerance.
The show also was the latest high point in a major movement towards more modesty in fashion: the opening look on a black model with lightly rouged lips was a rose-colored combo of scuba skirt and hyper-ruched matching cape that looked like a giant floral chador. That look was named "Rosa Madame Pierre Oger," as the couturier asked his atelier staff to name each passage after a flower.
Fourth out was "Fiore di Zucca," or courgette flower in English, a brilliant ensemble of swaddling amber silk coat, crepe de Chine pearl top and peppermint crepe pants. It was grand, overly opulent and way too much, but somehow it looked just perfect. Or consider "Ninfea," a hardy pink water lily, which referred to a divine cashmere duster, worn over a chocolate crepe blouse and emerald pants. All three of these looks worn by statuesque black models, all marching with evident pride.
The color mix was risky, but always seemed to work. Dare one say that the great Yves Saint Laurent, widely regarded as the all-time master of blending bold colors in fashion, has finally, a decade after he passed, found a worthy successor in this aspect of design.
Piccioli is also an equal-opportunities employee: so Russian superstar Natalia Vodianova also appeared in a memorable look: wafting around the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild in a voluptuous, off-the-shoulder silk gown embroidered with thousands of fabric flowers.
Beautiful clothes further enhanced by some truly remarkable makeup, courtesy of the brainy black English lady Pat McGrath. Whose team spent literally hours gently laboring over individual eyes, applying fabric petals, leaves and tiny stems that circled each eye as if blossoming from the iris.
Backstage Piccioli was engulfed by fans, standing beside a mood board that included images of naked Tahitians by Gauguin; black Madonnas in icons; 50s soul singers; Angela Davis; Ebony magazine and Franca Sozzani’s much-acclaimed black issue of Italian Vogue.
"Couture is a way you evaluate individual uniqueness. But before couture wasn’t meant to be for black women, it was meant to be only for white women. So I went back to Ebony, to Franca’s Black issue to re-evaluate diversity and not just by doing streetwear," Piccioli, who has generated an enormous fan base with black American professional athletes with his menswear, told FashionNetwork.com.
"All of us are talking about diversity but talking about diversity and the celebration of black beauty in couture is something totally different. It is not an exotic touch. It is putting in the central part of the picture the right of black girls to be there, and not just white gals. It’s a change of perspective," concluded the designer, as scores more waited to pay homage.
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