Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli have made a gorgeous fragility their calling card at Valentino, albeit one that occasionally snaps back with spiky studs. That made it all the more surprising to find such raffish hardiness at their second men's collection for the label. Men aren't women, of course. But they can, it turns out, find space for a few studs on their accessories, too.
Chiuri spoke of "mixing tradition with the new—the traditions of couture, the English men's tradition, the Italian men's tradition." The shapes she and her partner proposed aren't radical. They're rough-and-tumble classics: military and safari jackets, K-Ways and camp shirts, cargo shorts and hooded parkas. But a couturelike precision about fabric and fit distinguish these from the bins at your local army surplus supply. Far from it. The parka's plaid is patchwork, not print. The featherlight unlined chambray blazers are woven through with silk to catch the light. An olive-green take on camo isn't camouflage at all—it's the darker side of Hawaii-ana, a leafy print of palm trees covering anoraks, shorts, and short-sleeved shirts.
Camouflage by palm frond—that is to say, luxury hiding under the cover of utility—isn't a bad metaphor for the collection itself. At Valentino, denim, linen, and cotton drill are upscaled to fairly exquisite heights. (A leather version of that camp shirt is soft and pliant enough to be almost nylon—down the rabbit hole of luxe and out the other side!) The different registers—high and low, sporty and luxe—work together seamlessly. Seamlessly as the bonded leather-and-chambray bomber, let's say. "The new man can tie all these moments together," Piccioli said, gesturing at a Hawaiian shirt here, a military jacket there.
That military jacket—you could see it on Travis Bickle, plucked out of the cab and set atop a motorino in Milan. And given the chance of la dolce vita instead of Manhattan madness, just imagine how that story might've ended.