Pierpaolo Piccioli is clearly having fun now he’s got free reign at Valentino following the departure of his former partner Maria Grazia Chiuri to Dior in July 2016. Last season, he pushed a punk agenda, recruiting Sex Pistols graphic designer Jamie Reid to create prints. This season, his subcultural expedition took a new turn into more urban territory and the way stylish young men adopt and appropriate sportswear. Pulsing hip-hop provided the pace as models appeared in tracksuits, furnished with beading to justify the Valentino price point, and a trainer-cum-moccasin hybrid. This whole collection was a tribute to mash-ups - to the way clothing from other cultures is appropriated and twisted by those thousands of miles away. This gaze around the globe informed the surfaces - the embroidery, the rich tones, the crafty elements. The mood of the now, rather than the sartorial traditions of the past, dictated the silhouettes. These too were a mix - shirts with neck tie details were worn with jogging bottoms and zip ups. This season has been dominated by unions of high and low, of exceptional and quotidian, as luxury brands grapple to get to grips with the needs and habits of the modern consumer. Never has a season been so full of references to the ordinary or the basic. It’s a firm change in direction from just a few seasons back where brands were keen to assert the exceptional, unique, elevated nature of their wares. Now relevance, not rarity is the golden ticket.
Piccioli understands this. His new look for Valentino matters to the man who wants his normal to be exceptional. This man wants to be comfortable and carefree but still has money to spend on clothes. He lives in sportswear but sure, he’ll buy a Valentino tracksuit, if there’s a good one on offer. The show notes tried to sex up the ideas behind the collection with some rambling words about 'Mercury and Volcano' and 'the unreachable etherealness and the completely absorbing energy.' Pardon? Despite the gushing explanation, this was a collection that had its feet firmly on the ground and its eyes on the wallets of today’s men. Casual was the mood. Under Piccioli’s eye, the Valentino boy had an insolence and swagger that felt fresh.