Valentino’s Voyage

Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have been on a celebratory rollercoaster since presenting their Mirabilia Roma couture collection and last season’s brilliantly executed Zoolander 2 stunt. There were cover stories alongside longtime Valentino muse, Gwyneth Paltrow, and their joint CFDA International Designer of the Year Award.

It came as a bit of surprise, then, when the designers, so deeply invested in the history of Italy, specifically Rome, showed their Spring 2016 collection in homage to Africa and the refugees presently seeking solace in Italy. The clothes were exquisite (no surprise there) and harkened back to Monsieur Saint Laurent’s iconic Africa collection circa 1968.

Chiuri and Piccioli’s silhouettes were pure, mostly straight with a slight A-line flare, and came long or micro-mini short. Sleeves were often adorned with a multitude of feathers and intricately beaded patterns, and all of the models sported cornrowed hairdos tied into whispy chignons. The tribal influences continued with the accessories. This was perhaps the only area of the collection that could possibly be grouped into fashion’s current cultural appropriation trend, but because of the designers’ deep appreciation and thoughtful approach on the social and political climate, the mask and bone necklaces and bracelets were mostly inoffensive.

Standouts included a group of pleated and color-blocked dresses and tie-dyed separates in rich, earthy tones. Many of the ghostly goddess gowns in tissue-thin Chantilly lace, chiffon or crêpe de chine that have become the hallmarks of Chiuri and Piccioli’s tenure made appearances in deep noir, forest green, and chocolate. Others of this variety were adorned with studded leather strips or leather netting. There was also a splendidly tiered raffia gown in sundrenched pastels, and a host of Masai-inspired embroidered statement gowns near the show’s end that perfectly bridged the gap between East and West.

For more from Paris Fashion Week SS 2016, click here.