One wouldn’t presume that the natural environment of the Valentino man would be sweating it out in his gym kit, but that’s where the house took us for Spring/Summer 2013, pushing the couture sportswear vision that their previous collections have captured so well. The press notes promises us looks that were ‘edgy and energizing’, but really this was business as usual for Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, who captured the classic Valentino spirit with pieces that were luxurious, opulent and verging on ornamental in their pose and precision.
If last season the house was looking to the past, this season the duo had their sights firmly set on the future, in particular the burgeoning young male consumer group who have grown their style on a diet of luxe sportswear. Innovation and modernity were the buzz words, from the sculptured trainers – shown with each and every look, perhaps to ensure the models’ comfort on their trek down the Olympic length runway - to the Apple product-friendly leather man-bags.
Not content with running too far with the youthful theme the duo chose to show their collection in the midst of the Giardino Di Boboli, home to a collection of imposing sculptures dating as far back as the sixteenth century. It was this fusion of old and new, formality and ease, that made this collection a winner (and will ensure the success of the Valentino menswear line). Traditional shapes were given a fresh lease of life with new fabrics and a clever use of padding and bonding, from seamed camel chinos embellished with a punchy stripe of acid-green down the side to give the illusion of track-pants and classic polo shirts reworked in chocolate leather into rounded, structured shapes (nodding to Balenciaga). Particularly noteworthy were the cropped bomber jackets – one of which opened the show – beautifully crafted in tones of grey, army green, rust and navy.
The ease and vivacity of this collection was at points more suggested than practiced. There may have been no ties, but shirts were still buttoned right to the collar. There was an impenetrable perfection to the outfits on show – every item created and worn with such care and correctness, from the perfectly placed pockets to the carefully punched studs on accessories. We were told after that the camouflage – a pattern that has such connotations of ease and youthful rebellion – was not in fact a print, but created using opaque layers and rubberised intaglio detailing. Seamlessness was the message of this collection. There was an almost clinical tone to the items, so clean, cool and compact. The youth of the models, combined with the flawlessness of the items they sported, gave them an air of preened spoiled Italian school boys – each meticulously dressed by their doting mothers in pristine uniforms of shirts and fitted trousers. In particular the looks that featured tightly cut suits worn with running shoes evoked a sense of rich little boys at weddings. Dressed to allow comfort, but ensuring complete perfection.
The duo remarked in their press notes on a ‘search for edginess’. That’s exactly what this was – not a real move towards originality or experiment, but a recognition of the way in which modern men enjoy dressing. Not one item on that catwalk was genuinely revolutionary, but they were all perfect. And perfection, not innovation is what the Valentino shopper wants.