Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli looked to the swinging silhouettes of the '60s and Andy Warhol's iconic portrait series for Resort 2013. "We imagined a playful and optimistic collection, using color as a structural, rather than decorative, element," Chiuri explained. To that end, there were tulle gowns in princess silhouettes — high necks, long sleeves, flared skirts, nipped waists — embroidered with cotton-candy-hued florals for night, and for day, lounge-ready pantsuits in vivid lace and hyper-colored leopard prints.
Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli On Why They Don't Design "Editorial" Clothes for Valentino
>> Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri admit that designing for Valentino in tandem "isn’t easy," but they do agree on the general goal for the brand: "I have to say, with this [most recent Valentino] collection, the idea from the very beginning was not to do 'editorial' things just for the sake of it. Because in recent years, the image of fashion has prevailed over traditional fashion, meaning sartorial detailing and workmanship. But fashion designing means creating something using a special technique that might not emerge in a photo, but when you look at it up close, you see that it’s stylish. That’s a cultural problem. Clearly we live in a time where image is more important than content." Piccioli adds: "It’s as if fashion looks at the women who wear it as less valid. Well, if I want to do something artistic, then I’ll make an art installation." [Interview]
Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli's "Techno Couture" Pre-Fall 2011 Collection For Valentino
>> Like at Lanvin, glamorous daywear was the hot topic du jour for Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli at Valentino. Described as "techno couture," the designers created ruffled and embellished dresses — made with stretch wool for daytime comfort — along with spunkier leather and lace numbers for Pre-Fall 2011. "Our goal is to deliver wearable pieces which women can truly enjoy and can mix and match accordingly to their attitude,” said Chiuri. Piccioli added: “We want to transmit the feeling of an effortless elegance.”
Valentino Designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli "Loved" Working with Fired Designer Alessandra Facchinetti
>> According to Valentino CEO Stefano Sassi, if the brand's numbers stay strong through Christmas, it will be in the black again for the first time since the London-based private equity group Permira bought it in 2007.
When Sassi joined the company in 2006, to say that the company was without structure or fiscal discipline is an understatement, he told WSJ. Of Giancarlo Giammetti, Valentino Garavani's longtime business partner, Sassi said: "He is a fox, but also he was dangerous. He was a great communicator and he created an exclusive image, but if you compare what Armani was doing at the same age, now he was an entrepreneur.”
When Garavani retired in 2008, he had for years been only putting effort into the couture collection and the ready-to-wear runway shows. An accessories line — which now accounts for half the brand’s total revenue — didn't exist until 2000, and he left others to the pre-collections, which now make up 75 percent of sales.
When Alessandra Facchinetti took over after Garavani's retirement, she was critically acclaimed, but Sassi says that only 28 percent of her Fall 2008 collection sold at full price. And: “She was interested in one variable. We had 25 variables. And the more the critics talked about her genius, the less she listened [to management].”
Current Valentino creative directors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, were the brand's accessories designers at the time and say they didn't angle to take the head job after Garavani's retirement. “We loved working with [Facchinetti],” Chiuri told WSJ.
But they took over after Facchinetti was fired at the end of 2008 and have brought a younger slant to the brand: their runway shows are mostly day wear, as opposed to Garavani's mostly evening wear. And they've brought positive momentum to the brand: sales were up 10 percent for the first six months of 2010, and store traffic is up 15 percent.
As for Garavani, who attended the most recent show in October and gave a standing ovation? Sassi says his presence is a mixed blessing: “Yes, you want the founder’s approval, but you also want to show that you are forging your own way. Do you want people to think he is OK with the things you’re doing? Yes. But do you want them to think that it is business as usual? I’m not sure.”
Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli's couture dreams for Valentino came to life through details. Sweet details. Like delicate bows, babydoll cuts, paper-thin lace, soft ruffles, cage frocks, dusty feathers, and larger-than-life rosettes. It was a collection designed for the hyper feminine girl who has nothing but chic, chic, chic on her mind. At times long dresses resemble airy nightgowns, drop-waists bring a fresh feel to red carpet dressing, and sheer details are borderline sexy. While the details and silhouettes are complicated, the color palette is anything but. Three bright red dresses walked down the catwalk, while the remaining pieces were black, off-white, and blush. Will future red carpets reveal a sweeter side? If Valentino couture has anything to do with it, then yes!
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>> Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli are driving Valentino in a "younger, more contemporary, complete and desirable" direction, according to the brand's CEO Stefano Sassi, and the Fall 2010 Valentino campaign continues that evolution. Photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott were replaced this season by David Sims, who in what is his first Valentino campaign helped the label with a "radical image change," as WWD put it, capturing Freja Beha Erichsen, Monika Jagaciak, and Tati Cotliar (below) in black and white. Each ad shows the model in two side-by-side images, one of her nude ("shocking," says WWD) and the other fully clothed.
>> European private equity firm Permira, which bought minority stakes in Valentino and Proenza Schouler in May and July 2007, respectively, is reportedly looking to sell its interest in the labels. Permira denied that it is putting out feelers, but WWD reports that sources say otherwise, and several investment funds have looked at both labels.
One "well-placed source" is cited as saying that the situation with Proenza Schouler is "all very agreeable . . . [Permira is] trying to find a way out and working on a possible deal together with [Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez] . . . I believe the problem is that the brand is absorbing too much cash: It’s still a small business that requires a lot of investment to grow.”
>> Giancarlo Giammetti and Valentino Garavani are no strangers to disparaging Valentino's successors, and after current Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli presented their Spring 2010 couture collection last month, Giammetti turned to Facebook.
Valentino's longtime business partner posted on his Facebook page that he was “just speechless,” continuing, “not sad…just surprised.…We have always supported the new designers and we love them, but this time we have to distance ourselves from this ridiculous circus.”
Giammetti eventually deleted the comments after the reaction he received, but told WWD yesterday that both he and Garavani “are always supportive of the designers of Valentino, even if we don’t approve of their effort to be cool at all costs.” The house of Valentino declined comment.
>> A year after Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli dropped their first Valentino couture collection — an ode to the archives — the designers have entirely switched direction. "We think that to keep a future in couture, it's necessary to bring a new customer who wants something cooler," Chiuri said backstage. Piccioli added, "We tried to make new strategies for going forward. To do that we have to experiment with new silhouettes . . . because we want to call the young girls. They can be new customers for couture because they want beauty, they want personalized things."
This injection of youth involved Alice Dellal walking the runway and sheer ribbon blindfolds created by Philip Treacy; the graphically colorful collection is already earning comparisons to Nicolas Ghesquiere's Balenciaga, with some terming it "Valenciaga." But Piccioli says the collection is "about a woman wandering in this beautiful Eden. It's a dream. Couture is a dream."
>> Christian Lacroix Shows Up on Golden Globes Red Carpet —Christian Lacroix's business may be reduced to licensing at this point in time, but it's a testament that without any new collections being produced, he's still scoring red carpet coups — to wit, his Spring 2009 couture at last night's Golden Globes on the much-watched Diane Kruger. On the other side of the spectrum, houses recently kickstarted under new creative direction also found their footing at the Golden Globes: Nicole Kidman and Carey Mulligan wore Peter Copping's Nina Ricci from Spring 2010, Ginnifer Goodwin was in Spring 2010 Vionnet by Rodolfo Paglialunga, and Chloe Sevigny took home her award in Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli's Spring 2010 Valentino.