It was a runway of firsts for creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli. Valentino had to forgo its usual Paris Fashion Week schedule and made its first runway appearance in Milan in about a decade. And for the first time, the spring/summer 2021 collection was a combined show featuring both menswear and womenswear running with the same narrative.
Unprecedented moves during unprecedented times; but needed to ensure the safety of the Valentino team.
The runway show space this time around was a stark departure from the usual grandeur and sophistication of its past shows. The Italian fashion house took over an industrial space and filled it with 1,200 plants—of which there were 34 different species of flowers from eight countries. Valentino has always taken inspiration from the beauty and romanticism of nature, and the man-versus-nature setting was a metaphorical shift in how Piccioli envisioned the idea of romanticism in this new strange reality that we're in.
That renewed expression to an often-used Valentino trope took to mean an individual spirit that's not defined by any set of rules—a perfect way to kickstart Valentino post-COVID-19. With that in mind, the spring/summer 2021 collection was a noticeably less embellished and printed affair. These were clothes designed to take on the attitudes of the wearer, instead of the clothes wearing one down. And in the same spirit of individual expression, Piccioli adopted one of the most egalitarian piece of clothing that's ever existed: a pair of Levi's denim jeans, specifically the 517 bootcut.
Look and feel: It may be a more pared back menswear collection—especially in comparison to the highly printed ones in collaboration with Undercover and artist Roger Dean—but it did have a smattering of prints and floral treatments. Macramé and lace were crafted into various permutations of shirts, outerwear and polo tops, while a hoodie (look 31) featured the most floral print throughout the entire menswear collection.
There was a constant juxtaposition of traditional notions of elegance with more casual pieces. Short shorts were paired with oversized blazers and the collection's more formal (but not quite so) shirting, the Levi's x Valentino jeans grounded a lace shirt and blazer combination, and there was nary a leather shoe option in sight. It was a slightly different Valentino but one that dwelled on the combination of two extremes rather than sticking to one or the other.
Favourite looks: The opening menswear fit (look 8) was how we'd envision a co-ed collection for Valentino would be: a combination of signature Valentino aesthetic (check out that floral appliquéd leather crossbody) with astute tailoring finesse. Who wouldn't appreciate a breezy shirt in the heat of the summer? For something equally summer-friendly but a tad more dressed down, look 26's beautifully done floral macramé shirt worn with a simple white T-shirt and brown drawstring shorts was a stylish update. And lastly, look 47's full macramé ensemble—simple but such a versatile look that could easily be styled in a few different ways.
Favourite accessories: There were plenty of white sneakers paired with white socks. But our attention was drawn to the collection's macramé sneakers. They were finished in a few colours but the iteration in looks 37 and 50 was a standout simply because it's a burnished brown that's set to be a prominent colour for spring/summer 2021. Furthermore, it's one that won't be difficult to incorporate into one's existing wardrobe.
The bags in the collection took on a flatter build that usual, mostly crafted without side panels. Our top pick goes to the totes as seen on looks 25, 37 and 50 that were cleanly finished and topped off with knot-detailed handles. Simple and chic but still marked by crafty details.