In a gesture of creative resilience, artistic bravura, and heart in the face of adversity, Pierpaolo Piccioli presented his Valentino haute couture collection in Rome this week with a hybrid performance bridging the physical-virtual divide.
Staged in one of Cinecittà’s cavernous studios, it was a collaboration that united Piccioli, Valentino’s virtuosic atelier, and the visionary photographer Nick Knight, with aural support from FKA Twigs. The performance, called “Of Grace and Light,” featured a cast of models and acrobats who seemed to float in the Cinecittà darkness wearing 16-foot-long all-white dresses of hyperbolic beauty. Each creation was designed to dazzle and delight: A weightless meringue was made from 400-meters of spiraling ruffles, and a tulle number was stitched with iridescent thread and sequin fringes that transformed in movement into a mesmerizing vortex of light. On the dresses’ all-white surfaces Knight projected a shadow-play of vibrant, painterly digital brushstrokes evocative of the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air.
Piccioli envisioned “a radical, non-compromising, strong response to the circumstances’ limitations.” And, indeed, the physical-digital experience proved as enchanting as the best IRL Valentino shows for the few Italy-based journalists lucky enough to be able to attend. “I wanted to celebrate couture at its most inspiring and magical, rooted in the material, deeply human world of craft as well as in the immaterial world of dreams,” said Piccioli at a post-performance press conference. “For me, humanity is at the center. Creativity is at the center. Fairy tales—no, dreams—always.”