The last time Valentino staged a one-off couture show in New York City, the results were spectacular. The 2014 show was an ode to the colour white and the American dream – seen, of course, through the romantic and dreamy eyes of then co-creative directors Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri.
For Pre-Fall 2017, the Italian brand and now-solo Creative Director returned to the Big Apple. Piccioli chose to show at the newly reopened Beekman hotel, an architectural marvel thats interior is photo-ready at virtually any angle. So the brand's story went: the universal yet individual facets of human desire and gestures; the mercurial melding of wardrobe elements; finding the rhythm and sway of jazz in the day; the urgency of perspective and craft; the politicisation of aesthetics.
It's all a lot of fancy for what was a collection of romantic daywear. The house's signature embroidered artworks are ever present, as are the delicate light-as-a-feather silhouettes and fabrics. Piccioli is at his best when he develops his collections with an eye that strays far and wide for inspiration, using the established shapes and character he's developed for the modern Valentino woman. She always has her hair parted and pushed back – perhaps braided – and never seems to walk in a rush. She has her oddities and eclecticisms but is a classicist and romanticist at heart. It's a simple but effective narrative that is made endearing and powerful because of the flighty imaginations of Piccioli: Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights in the SS17 collection, for instance.
The collection also felt like a masterfully subtle nod towards the American dream, which is perhaps urgent now because of the ideology it represents. The shape of the leather boots, floral prints and a fur collar hinted toward Americana reflected through hopeful optimism. There is plenty of beauty yet to be mined from the mind of Pierpaolo Piccioli – which is exactly the kind of hope we really need.