Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli were referencing Bruce Chatwin for S/S16. Deja vu? He's the very same bohemian travel writer that inspired Christopher Bailey's S/S 15 menswear collection for Burberry. Awkward? Not really. Luxury houses are always on about travel - it appeals to the kind of monied shopper who could afford the embellished jackets, intricate patchwork coats and decorated trenches on show today. It's also a conduit through which luxury brands can try to make their work feel cool, bohemian and even edgy - they can package up culture and experience and sell it back to people. Why spend years roaming the world collecting patches and badges for your leather jacket when you can go straight to Valentino for a shiny new Alighiero Boetti inspired one. Sure there's no real stories behind it, but it still looks cool. And if you've got the money, who cares if you didn't invest the time in making your own. Oh the irony of a 'souvenir jacket' bought brand new.
There's only really one way things can go when a luxury brand tries to bottle up a sense of ease and effortlessness by playing as their soundtrack a string quartet cover of Nirvana. Just as Kurt Cobain urged listeners to to 'come as you are,' the Valentino duo were celebrating the ordinary and the everyday, hence all the denim. This collection was packed with normal items that normal men will want to wear - great bombers with fun details on the back, jean jackets, Hawaiian shirts, army coats. But there was a strange air of forced nonchalance - you saw it in those souvenir jackets and you saw it in the way the show notes promised the pieces were ‘pages of a thrilling diary to be worn.' That’s the one thing box-fresh clothes don’t have: stories. That’s why our old favourites have such meaning - they carry with them memories. So, sure models wore jeans, but these clothes were too considered to be truly carefree or rich in narrative. Valentino is about couture-level detail, craft and luxury - when they began their menswear they even branded it ‘Couture’. They’re not the only ones trying to make new clothes look old to emphasis their value or insouciance this season, but they're at their best when they don't try to justify their pieces by styling them down.