Outdoor fashion shows are always a risk but when it goes right, it goes right and Valentino creative director Pier Paolo Piccioli could not have picked a more perfect day of sunshine to show his latest menswear collection for Spring Summer 2024. The whole experience felt…joyous.
Dubbed “The Narratives”, the lead up to the show guests were given hints as to the mindset that Piccioli was in during the creative process. Several teaser trailers were revealed that involved models and actor James Norton reading the best-selling A Little Life, written by Hanya Yanagihara, were revealed (pink reprints of the book were even sent out as invitations to guests).
And for the the location, the Italian maison selected the gardens of La Statale, a public university in Milan and a stunning Renaissance-era building.
These ingredients became the groundwork for a collection that took an introspective take on masculinity. One where the literary becomes literal but also frames the potentiality of fashion to communicate something bigger than itself.
How this looked, in the physical sense, was still very much Valentino. No other house encourages feelings of romance and vulnerability the way Valentino does for the men who wear their clothing.
Softer, billowing silhouettes of the blazers, the playful switch of shorts in lieu of trousers or the joyful incorporation of delicate (and traditionally feminine) details such as floral embroidery make for a softening of sartorial structures that tend to dictate menswear.
Universities are often the site of intellectual revolutions that question what came before. While Valentino remains, and always will be, a maison that positions beauty as the pinnacle of human culture, it still does so by always questioning what is beautiful in the context of the current culture.
Today, this meant bringing new nobility to traditional materials and familiar cuts: pure cottons such as drill and poplin and workwear pieces reworked into delicate layers.
One of Piccioli strength’s is his eye for colour and its potential combinations. What might look garish in the hands of any other designer – mint greens, turquoise, raspberry reds and his signature hot pink along with classic black and white – is, courtesy of the 55-year-old’s light touch, rendered delicious and revelatory.
It was a collection that, deliberately not as visually dramatic as some others that Piccioli has presented, was cerebrally considered.