Couture has been a watchword for the Valentino men's collection under Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri. The exigencies of the fashion calendars mean that menswear and haute couture fall naturally one after the other in January and in June, but it's more than temporal coincidence that throws them together where these designers are concerned. Couture "is the DNA of our brand," said Piccioli, "and what we think is good to get into every single thing we do."
The opening of the new Valentino men's store on rue Saint-Honoré tonight allows the designers to make couture for men a reality. Their Fall show was designed to show off the possibilities. Piccioli and Chiuri proposed five couture coats in double-face cashmere, handmade in the Val atelier in Rome's Piazza Mignanelli and adaptable to a man's any and every whim. Theirs were long, swingy, and in one vivid case, stripy, but the choice is his.
The introduction of this men's couture only further ratchets up the degree of luxury Piccioli and Chiuri have made it their business to sell. But the twist at their Valentino is that with each new turn of the gilded screw, the look of luxe gets less and less. The collection has never looked looser. Suits have mostly melted into pajamas; trousers into jeans; shirt-and-tie into sweatshirt-and-scarf. (On occasion, it is loose to the point of self-parody: cashmere coveralls and fur bucket hats are glamorous absurdities.) Everything is more than it appears to
be—(couture) coat, (bespoke) jeans, (monogrammed) sneakers. The Valentino man has it his way, though with such patrician discretion that only his tailor knows for sure.
The premium is placed on the known rather than the new—a reverse engineering of the ideal wardrobe—which helps to make the pieces especially covetable. What these designers realize that many of fashion's novelty artists seem not to is that it's easy to want what you already have and love. Artists' egos be damned. "The ultimate luxury is to do whatever you want," Piccioli said. Which makes Valentino menswear the most elegant instigator of anarchy.