Those who weren't present at Pierpaolo Piccioli's Valentino A/W 21 haute couture show at the Venice Biennale - watching it through a pixelated screen instead - bore witness to a note on the screen before the show started. 'Listen to yourself. Listen to the planet. Listen to the water. Listen to humanity. Before the show begins, join us for a minute of generous listening, inspired by Giuseppe Pennone's Olmo, brought to you by Vuslat Foundation.'
Listening is something that was important to the house's artistic director Pierpaolo Piccioli in the lead up to the collection, made clear through the dialogue he opened up between Valentino and this season's artist collaborators. 'Listening needs time, just like haute couture and at the end of the day, like art. That's why this project's progress has been slow, a pace perhaps unusual for our actual world but right and intimate for the world I would like to live in.'
Valentino's A/W 21 haute couture show was a culmination of many talents this season. Working with curator Gianluigi Ricuperati, Piccioli amassed a team of 16 international artists to influence Valentino's A/W 21 haute couture looks. Named Des Ateliers (translating to Of Ateliers, paying homage to the artists that worked in collaboration with Valentino to design the collection), Piccioli, despite declaring 'fashion is not art', successfully weaved the two together, creating a one-of-a-kind show that shone a light on the adaptable language of couture, its artistry and inexplicable beauty.
A show that can only fittingly be described as a sea of vibrancy, looks ranged from the sculptural to the subtle, as Piccioli equally concentrated on small-scale minis as he did on luxurious ball gowns. There were large quivering ostrich frond hats by the great Philip Treacy - defying gravity altogether - an array of trapeze silhouettes and many variations of the Balloon jacket.
Referring to the dialogue that took place between the artists' response and the Valentino atelier team themselves, the Valentino press release described the runway show as a 'translation between different languages, a complex and delicate passage between the two-dimensional nature of painting and the three-dimensional one of fashion. Which, moreover, finds its ultimate and fundamental purpose in the dressing of the body - which is at the centre of everything.'
Curator Gianluigi Ricuperati said in a statement, 'We must imagine Valentino Des Ateliers as a concert for two distinct worlds - painting and Haute Couture, contemporary art and clothing art - in which each side's own voices listen to each other's song before pronouncing themselves.'
Believing in the power of illustration to communicate fashion, SHOWstudio has always chosen to support illustrators and artists by inviting them each season to interpret the latest shows on the runway. As we evolve as a society, embracing digital technology more and more with every new idea, fashion illustration, and the art of putting pen (or paintbrush) to paper refuses to die out - or to be replaced. Celebrated now more than ever, illustration can evoke visceral reactions, and at times, has spectral qualities; Piccioli's choice to amalgamate his collection with illustrative designs of these 16 artists is a decision that is lauded by not only us here at SHOWstudio, but the rest of the industry at large.