Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli’s signature mix of grace and glamour has won Valentino a whole new generation of fans and the patronage of countless celebrities, so throughout March Harrods is celebrating the Italian brand’s phenomenal success with a host of pop-ups in-store and online. Spanning ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories, highlights include the design duo’s Spring/Summer 2016 take on their iconic bags – the Rockstud Lock, Rockstud Shopper and My Rockstud – which have been hand painted and embellished with intricate beading.
Ahead of the launch, we caught up with the Maison’s Creative Directors to chat about craft, couture and completing each other’s sentences…
Who is the Valentino woman?
Pierpaolo Piccioli: We like atypical beauties, and we defend the idea of individual beauty. Our work is to understand women and to grasp their different dimensions. Our woman is multidimensional, like Rome – our city – which is imperial, baroque, romantic, neorealist and modern.
“Our creative mission was to develop a new vision while maintaining Valentino’s heritage.”
Was it difficult to develop new codes for Valentino?
Maria Grazia Chiuri: It didn’t seem so intimidating to us. First of all, because it is a brand we’d chosen professionally and worked with for 15 years, we knew it intimately. Secondly, the name Valentino is part of the life and culture of Romans. Their heritage is also a little bit ours; so we mixed the codes fairly easily. We embraced Valentino’s brand values of beauty, glamour and elegance, and reinterpreted them in our own style. We like to play with classic elements of the maison in new and unexpected ways. The key lies in consistency in the quality and craftsmanship.
PP: For us, it was like watching the same landscape but from a different standpoint. We tried to look at the house differently, from another perspective. Our creative mission was to develop a new vision while maintaining Valentino’s heritage.
Storytelling is an important part of your design process. Can you explain the message behind your SS16 collection?
MGC: Fashion is not just about making clothes. Fashion, like art, reflects the time we live in and the society we belong to. We must be the witnesses of our time, and right now our time is strongly marked by immigration. Our idea was to narrate different cultures and traditions, and translate them into clothes. Sometimes when we see a big group of people, we think they all have the same background, that they are just a group. But that’s far from the truth. Everybody has a different story to tell, and those stories are a constant source of wealth for our culture. Think back to the beginning of the last century. When artists such as Picasso focused on African culture, they gave life to the avant-garde art movement. If we open our minds to other cultures and their stories, we can create something new to be shared with everyone.
What’s your starting point when you begin a collection?
MGC: Our work resembles the making of a movie. We have an idea, we think about it, discuss it and pick out the different concepts. And we have a mood board, which we compile day by day.
You’ve invested heavily in your ateliers since you became creative directors. Why is craft so important to you?
MGC: The seamstresses in our atelier are the soul of the house. Their workmanship is incredible, and we always involve them from the beginning of the process. When it comes to haute couture, everything is handmade – and each seamstress has a different hand. Therefore, each dress is different, depending on the hands that worked on it. Haute couture is a labour of love that involves craftsmanship, time and passion.
PP: Sometimes the beauty of a piece lies in the tension between its apparent simplicity and the number of hours invested in it in our atelier.
Your workload is immense; what motivates you to keep creating?
MGC: We spend so many hours in the office, but we love our work and, crucially, we love working together. We challenge and question each other all the time, but we also encourage and support each other so we can bring new ideas to life in each collection. We tend to complete each other’s sentences, as we usually know what the other one is thinking. What comes out is the work of two different people who share the same vision.
Read the full interview in the March edition of the Harrods Magazine, or by downloading the digital issue of the #Harrods app – Search 'Harrods' in the App Store.
Catch up on the latest from the Autumn/Winter 2016 Fashion Shows.
Shop our edit of Valentino must-haves below.