Pasolini, Picasso, Cocteau, Kerouac that's a pretty special posse of male muses. Translating the essence of that wayward crew into clothing seems like a challenge too far. Nevertheless, they were the outsiders and rule breakers who inspired Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli's new collection for Valentino, and, with a little effort, you could detect their perverse contrariness in clothes with a silkily decadent edge. "Silent sedition" was the claim lodged by the show notes. In the context of menswear—"a world of rules," as Piccioli
said—the densely decorative nature of the Valentino collection was insinuatingly otherly. Embroidered butterflies, beasts of field and forest, flowers like a starburst of fireworks, symbolist Odilon Redon's deadly blooms—this was scarcely the stuff of an ordinary menswear collection. Neither were the sinuous, pajama-like silhouettes.
Chiuri and Piccioli have carved themselves a substantial niche in haute couture. That's the spirit they want to bring to menswear. Not bespoke, because that's normally about suits, but couture as an experimental forum, an artistic point of view. The first six looks in today's show were couture options, but they were profoundly ordinary: a polo, a K-Way, a trench, and so on. Perhaps that was the point. Customizing something as banal as a polo shirt would truly exalt the individual. But that notion infected the whole collection. The white shirttails that floated out from under sweaters? Cotton, right? Wrong. They were wool as fine as silk. Such numbingly perfect craftsmanship is like a drug. And that tracks back with absolute efficiency to the muses for this collection—driven individuals attempting to escape their doom through an obsession with style. The power of fashion!