Photo: Courtesy of Valentino

Pierpaolo Piccioli showed a dazzling, pristine collection of Valentino ideas for summer at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. FKA Twigs and her dancers were performing athletically in the center, and the models walked—not uncoincidentally—against a backdrop that included classical nude sculptures of women.

“We have to keep women’s freedom to express themselves, to express their bodies in a very free way,” Piccioli said in a preview. He is appalled by the political pushback on women’s rights he sees happening under Giorgia Meloni’s conservative-right administration in Italy. “The worst thing is the government has said to girls is ‘be careful what you wear.’ I think that feminism is the freedom of women to be who they are. Even to expose the body, and say no.”

His collection was faithful to his word—in fact full of a generous variety for different styles, sensibilities, moods, and cultures. There were great-looking trouser suits and jackets paired with matching long tailored skirts; flowing silk T-shirt dresses with a twist at the hip, over-shirts, shorts, jeans. But the riveting headline idea he showed was a quite ravishing innovation: dresses made from a cut-out embroidery technique that created a kind of caged effect, made up of linked flower, bird, vine leaves, or pineapples.

“I wanted to use embroidery not as decoration, but as structure that becomes a fabric in itself,” Piccioli said. “I think this is the most exposed collection I’ve done; it shows skin, but in a different way.” The idea was based on low-relief architectural moldings familiar in Italian renaissance interiors, with a special nod to the Sala Bianca, the storied palatial Florentine venue where Valentino first shot to fame with his all-white collection in 1968.

Piccioli wasn’t doing it for the sake of nostalgia, or trying to revive an archival Valentino idea. Nevertheless, the pure craft of it was fully in the spirit of the house. “Prettiness and elegance is what Mr. Valentino’s work is associated with. I think you can keep that, but also work on things which expose the body in a different, modern way that isn’t about being sexy for someone else.”

This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.

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