They say that today luxury is experience. Product is not enough - it feels too meaningless. Luxury is about feeling part of something, being involved or present, feeling a connection to other humans, having access to something that few can have. Early this year marketing expert Pam Danziger hammered home how this trend will only increase as a new generation of consumers come through - 'Luxury no longer refers exclusively to expensive bags, shoes and watches. It now includes experiences like farm-to-table dining and 'über-luxe' travel. Millennials prefer experiences to things,' stated their report.
The design and business minds at Valentino understand this. At Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Valentino couture show they offer notes that detail the number of hours that it took to craft each piece. At their S/S 17 menswear show they also sought to emphasise the role of the maker - to connect the shopper with the time, thought and experience of crafting a Valentino piece. The show was an ode to the unfinished - the plans, the ideas, the process. They'd showed their workings out. Inspiration for this ethos came from the acclaimed exhibition Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible at The Met Breuer in New York, which featured 197 uncompleted works from the Renaissance to today by the likes of Lygia Clark, Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg. It resulted in garments with small threads left hanging, un-sewn linings that suggested extra layers and visible staples. The signature surface embellishment that underpins Valentino collections also played to the undone theme - it appeared, faded away, then was taken up again.
Connection. That's what this collection was about - uniting the wearer with the toil and time that goes into making luxury clothing and proving their value and cost by doing so. It creates a veneer of uniqueness and preciousness around garments. It's that same ideal that helps the success of Gucci under Alessandro Michele - his clothes seem to be one of kinds, featuring motifs that could have been collected over years. In today's times, where the pace of both production and consumption is so punishing, the slowness that is inferred by garments where the process is visible is strangely comforting. On the soundtrack, Michel Gaubert included Wim Merten's Struggle For Pleasure. The last time I heard that at a fashion show was Craig Green's brilliant S/S 15 presentation. That show moved many of us to tears. Valentino's tribute to craft and creation was, in its own way, also touching.