Race, age, weight: Valentino bets on diversity at the Paris Motor Show | Lifestyles
By THOMAS ADAMSON – AP Fashion Editor
PARIS (AP) — It was a breath of fresh air in Paris, as Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli broke free from the constraints of race, age and weight on Wednesday to produce a joyful couture moment, inclusive and long awaited.
Fashion prides itself on being able to predict trends and being ahead of the curve. So many industry observers have been disappointed in recent years that European fashion houses – some of which have been accused of Westernism and even racism – have seemed to lag behind on issues of body positivity and diversity.
For spring, Piccioli has taken a good step forward.
Here are some highlights from Wednesday’s shows.
VALENTINO COUTURE DIVERSITY
“I thought about the body. Repeating the proportion of the in-house model has always been the pace and I thought it was time for a change,” Piccioli said. “Creativity, like life itself, is only possible in a non-homogeneous environment.”
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And with that, the famous Italian designer has entered a new realm: a fashion universe of clothes worn by individuals, regardless of color, age, height and waistline.
Tailoring, the centuries-old tradition of bespoke clothing at exorbitant prices, has always been governed by strict rules of morphology, and traditionally modeled on predominantly white, European-looking models of a certain size and certain weight.
In the legendary Place Vendôme, Piccioli finally broke those rules.
Curvy beauties, over-60s, and racially diverse male and female models appeared in the flickering camera flashes in light, upbeat, and playful couture designs. Some 32 of the 64 looks – precisely half – were modeled by non-white models.
Some fashion watchers saw it as a moment “about time too”, including Long Nguyen, a prominent Asian-American fashion critic.
“It’s a welcome change for Valentino to see the diversity of ages, bodies and races in the couture orbit,” he said. “It’s a process that has taken far too long in luxury fashion houses.”
He said there was “still a lot to do”.
Last week, Kenzo unveiled the collection of its first Japanese designer since house founder Kenzo Takada. Nigo, 51, became just the second Asian designer to helm a European haute couture brand, alongside Filipino-American Rhuigi Villaseñor de Bally. His appointment was seen as an important step as the luxury industry wrestles more broadly with questions about race.
The diversity was felt not only in the choice of Valentino models, but in the fashions themselves.
Valentino’s collection was called “the anatomy of couture”. The styles, often streamlined and cut from the body, were a study in the border between minimalism and exuberance.
Cutting was sometimes literal by Piccioli – as in holes in the sides of trousers or vertical cutouts on a whitewash tunic. He produced the best looks.
A white column dress in viscose crepe featured a sublime undulating cutout at the chest to give it a playful and modernist look. A midnight blue chiffon cape sheer enough to expose nipples and skin placed the show’s title at the heart of its design. It was archetypically couture.
Elsewhere, the simplicity has been interrupted by flourishes of arches, puffs of silk and flashes of bright color.
The house said 50 meters (165 feet) of cotton faille was hand-sewn by Valentino’s army of seamstresses to create a sky-blue cape so voluminous it seemed to hover around the model like a smoky halo.
ZUHAIR MURAD’S RETRO PIRATES
Zuhair Murad is in a 70s mood.
One of two leading Lebanese designers to present couture shows in Paris, alongside Eli Saab, Murad brought out the silk headbands, embellishments and long silk dresses whose accordion pleats swept the floor for a retro, confident and sexy display that riffed on the hack.
The track, consisting of an old-fashioned map, introduced a major theme of shipping or piracy.
18th century tricorn hats – or pirate hats popular in the 70s – have been reinvented in lavender, complementing flapper leather pirate boots with stylish pointed toes.
Murad’s cuts hug the natural high waist of the silhouettes on models whose height is accentuated by full skirts. Elsewhere, plunging necklines and shoulderless bodices emphasize feminine curves.
Sometimes the collection looked a bit like a pastiche. But its sheer exuberance and tedious execution produced a sellable, commercially minded show.
VIKTOR&ROLF’S MISSING MODELS
Quirky, ironic and macabrely creative.
On Wednesday, Dutch design duo Viktor & Rolf were back on the couture calendar in great shape, producing a typically thought-provoking series: The Case of the Ghostly Shrinking Mannequins.
A clever trompe-l’oeil effect hoisted the shoulders of the garments so that the models seemed to shrink as if they had suddenly aged. White makeup was used to hollow out their faces alongside dark, macabre lipstick. Long nails suggested someone who had been buried alive – in styles you had to be bold to wear.
This collection, you might say, was not for shrinking violets.
Style-wise, it smacks of the late ’70s. Frilled collars mixed with ruffled cuffs and giant pleated collars that evoked the heyday of the New Romantics. But the 25 drawings also had an encyclopedic touch. with historical reflections such as a criss-cross Shakespearean bodice or a huge tiered raspberry dress with a giant slanted neck hoop that evoked Queen Elizabeth I’s ruff.
Elie Saab said it with flowers. On Wednesday, the Lebanese designer took the lavish bread-and-butter silhouettes that made him red carpet with celebrities such as Rihanna, Halle Berry and Mila Kunis — and created endless variations.
This was thanks to her beautifully embroidered flower designs.
Shiny petals – in a dazzling fuchsia hue – seemed to engulf the giant skirt which opened the show and looked like a kaleidoscope of butterflies.
Huge teeming pink peonies hung around a model’s neck and stomach, paired with a shoulderless pink silk dress and train that riffed on the 70s.
And an embellished cape in Persian rose evoked a fairytale princess – an area the romantic designer has explored in the past with considerable frequency.
Organizers, citing pandemic access restrictions, denied AP photographers entry to the Valentino show
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