Yesterday evening in Venice, Valentino Des Ateliers Haute Couture was presented within the Gaggiandre at the Arsenale. Leaving the historic structure almost entirely untouched, but for a series of long, white runways, the show began when the musician Cosima descended onto a platform that extended across the water—punctuated by a Giuseppe Penone sculpture rising from the lagoon, supported by the Vuslat Foundation. Accompanied by a piano, the artist sang songs from The Fun Is Here while a series of chromatic garments were introduced, one by one.
“Venice was part of the vision I had from the very beginning: it was the only place in the world in which to present such a collection, a context where nothing can be added or subtracted: the light and power of Venice are the perfect setting in which I’d love to immerse my work,” said Valentino Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli.
The location—home to the Venice Biennale—was the starting point for a collection rooted in a dialogue between art and fashion. Inspired by the works of contemporary artists, Piccioli took this muse one step further, inviting a cast of creatives to respond, in turn, to the inspiration sparked in them through the beauty of couture. Chosen with the help of Gianluigi Ricuperati, work by more than 15 artists—including names like Luca Coser, Jamie Nares, Wu Rui, and Malte Zenses—was seen infused in the collection’s folds and fabrics.
“We must imagine Valentino Des Ateliers as a concert for two distinct worlds—painting and Haute Couture, contemporary art and clothing art—in which each side own voices listen to each other’s song before pronouncing themselves,” said curator Gianluigi Ricuperati.
Dancing across a series of dramatic silhouettes for both men and women, there were purple and green abstractions from Patricia Treib’s Undulate and La Grotta (Palazzo Massimo), Andrea Respino’s portrait-like I beati verdi, Guglielmo Castelli’s collage-like composition About Today,and figures from Anastasia Bay’s La danse Bleue imagined in prints, patchworks, and patterns. Colors were lively and fabrics were used generously, creating fluid and supple silhouettes that allowed plenty of space for the artworks to come alive—like a layered pants suit with abstract spots of color, or a voluminous one-shouldered ballgown in shades of red, with a figural motif.
Popping against the industrial structure of the Arsenale, the collection featured looks like a mini bubble dress styled with an enormous, trailing, pink feathered hat; a series of full-skirted gowns in neon hues, worn with accessories like hoods, gloves, and cloaks; and a dress with a cowl neck and overcoat, styled with invisible heels and painted with the fleeting, gestural lines from the artwork of Benni Bosetto. We also loved the monochrome ensembles that incorporated textural combinations, like a sequined shirt, worn with a tailored skirt and trousers; a glistening skip dress with a crinkled robe trailing behind; and a pink-on-pink dress and feathery jacket, paired with matching highlighter eye makeup.
“Fashion is not ‘art,’” said Piccioli, “because the latter has no purpose outside of itself, while the first always has a practical scope, a function, a use. Acknowledging differences is the first step in educating ourselves towards a mutual listening, made of curiosity, enthusiasm, and respect. This listening needs time, just like Haute Couture and at the end of the day like art. That’s why, this project’s progress has been slow, a pace perhaps unusual for our actual world but right and intimate for the world I would like to live in.”