PFW AW23 Couture: Valentino

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THERE have only been a handful of times that Anna Wintour has stood up with applause following a fashion show. It has become such a significant rarity that when she lifted herself off her chair after the Valentino autumn-winter 2023 couture collection whilst clapping, it confirmed not only everyone else’s reaction to the exquisite offering but cemented Pierpaolo Piccioli as one of today’s greats.

Seeking out a less concrete form of inspiration and delving more into the philosophical side of things, Piccioli decided to look at ‘a place as an idea’, focusing not on a singular location, or in this collection’s case ‘the château’, but “Un Château”.

Redefining what this may mean to you, he explains in the show notes that he approached this subject by seeing it as a place that holds history, the tales of those that have walked through its rooms and most poignantly, the Château was a cultural signifier of notoriety and status.

By looking at this subject today, the latter is not entirely true anymore, as these places can find themselves undergoing changes that help them lose their past and brings them into a more accepting forum that celebrates freedom and beauty.

Arguably long-winded and certainly a thorough delve into its definition, this paradox was translated into AW23 couture by mirroring the complexity of a Château’s architecture and interior into the intricacy of the collection’s savoir-faire, while the simpler side was evident in how streamlined the silhouettes appeared.

Fabrics remained lightweight with a clear motivation to focus on its movement, colours were vibrant to create a very contemporary mood, and decorative additions were abstract to allow the wearer to attach their own interpretations to the small bits of art.

Not the only couture show to swap heels for flats, whether this is due to the constant talk of “quiet luxury” having the internet in a chokehold or actually for the purpose of lifting further restrictions away for the clothes to move freely, this decision made couture edge slightly closer to ready-to-wear.

Even Levi’s 501s found themselves beside ballgowns but that’s not to say that there weren’t some clear indicators of this being couture with oodles of opulent feathers, floral embroidery and even headdresses letting us know that decadence, even if it is toned down, is a necessary must in this realm of high fashion.

But notably this continuous juxtaposition of looks, all meticulously crafted, actually relates back to Piccioli’s version of Un Château. You have the classic looks of the past, the dresses that are reimagined season upon season, that align so perfectly with the framework of couture, while the more modern, stripped-down looks give AW23 that youthful touch for the newer generation of Valentino clients.

Though both different in practice, together they fuse the Valentino vision together, creating a symphony of looks worthy of a standing ovation.

by Imogen Clark


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