A place as an idea - a representation, a metaphor. Not the château, but “Un Château” - a locale unanchored to geographies or eras, but expressive of an idea of life, a symbol to be analysed, questioned, then redefined.
For the Valentino Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023-24 Valentino show, a Château is, to Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli, a metaphysical entity, a context that can itself be recontextualized. Witness to a past time, a space bears traces of the lives lived within it - formerly emblematic of notions of elitism and status, a Château can today reject its history, to be recalibrated. Nameless and universal, a Château can exist as an everyplace for everyone, can become a forum for a new equality and a celebration of beauty, uniqueness and freedom.
A Château can also serve as a metaphor for collective preconceptions of Haute Couture - as the lived history of a Château can be reconfigured, these expectations can be confounded, and paradoxes discovered. Within complexity - the architectural complexity of a Château, the perceived complexity of Haute Couture - a pure simplicity can be found.
A fundamental ideology of Couture is championed - its expertise, its craft, and the power of the individual, the unique. These concepts are translated to clothes that reflect contemporary sensibilities, modern realities. Through a process of reduction, there is the anomalous result of adding meaning.
Clothes are markedly simple, they move with the body, streamlined to follow its forms, seams reduced, precise and focussed. Ideals of the past are evoked with an attitude of the present: fabrics are lightened, memories of decoration abstracted - arabesques of heightened color offering an imitation of the baroque, a minimalized maximalism. Draperies freeze fabric in motion, capturing momentum and isolating an instant in stillness. It gives pause, for consideration and examination, for reflection.
Humanity is at the center of all - flat shoes liberate movement, clothes flow, expressive of individual’s emotion, human feeling. Instinctive and spontaneous, gestures of extravagance emerge - a pretence of ermine, a waterfall of crystal jewels, reminders of histories. And, conversely, the quotidian can become exceptional, t-shirts transmute to ballgowns, vintage Levi’s® 501 XX Big E jeans serve as canvas for gilded embroidery. Other jeans are invented anew, denim constructed from a painstaking trompe l’oeil of beadwork that excites curiosity, demanding closer inspection to comprehend - an approach, a philosophy that typifies this collection as a whole. A preciousness is afforded to every day, a celebration of its beauty - an equality, eschewing hierarchy.
A tension is explored between an environment and the figures within - people pass from interior grandeur to the freedom of nature, their clothes emblematic of the duality of this transition. Here, “Un Château” becomes an arena for the amplification of ideas, one open and inclusive, for all.
Photos: Courtesy of Valentino