After seasons of being inspired by Rome, where Valentino himself first founded his maison in 1960, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli paid homage to the wilds of Africa in their Spring/Summer 2016 show. In some ways it was a new aesthetic for the design duo, who stripped the collection right down to very basic shapes and eschewed modern ornaments. In other ways it was a natural evolution of their coveted collections, which manage to be at once graceful and powerful.
The main protagonist in this line-up was the tunic - long, short, with or without sleeves, halter-style and suspended by a necklace or utterly devoid of embellishment, it looked chic, cool, and comfortable. For dressier occasions, gowns came with feathered sleeves, beaded lengths and, occasionally, harnessed with leather panels which were etched with markings of jaguars and masks.
Elsewhere pencil skirts were teamed with rigid leather bustiers for a more figure-hugging silhouette. Accessories-wise, rustic leather sandals came wrapped around the ankle for the new iteration of the gladiator, while bags were slouchier than in seasons past and were decorated with the same mask motifs.
A collaboration with jewellery designer Alessandro Gaggio provided a further feeling of pre-history with its pottery and bone-shaped decorative pieces. All played out on a palette of black, brown, ivory, rust and forest green, it was without a doubt a sensual yet elegant collection.
"Without a doubt my favourite show of the season. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took us to Africa this season, and there wasn't one exit that didn’t showcase the duo's stunning, hand-embroidered and detailed work," said Helen David, Harrods Chief Merchant, of the show.