Blue Steel is back! There was a real fashion moment at the Valentino show when, before the models of this winning collection took their final turn on the catwalk, out came two of the most famous male models of all time —Derek Zoolander and Hansel — wearing pieces from the brand's menswear line.
The duo (AKA Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson) brought the house down with their runway moves. A moment that will probably live on in perpetuity in the movie “Zoolander 2,” the sequel to the 2001 film, which will open in February of next year.
But it is worth pointing out that even before the big Zoolander revelation, the audience was already wildly clapping their approval of this stellar show. The seemingly unstoppable designer duo of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli gave fashion a faultless collection this season.
There has been much front row chatter over the past few weeks about how so many of the once daring and directional brands in the industry seem to have kowtowed to the more pedestrian needs of the luxury consumer. But with this show Valentino found that sweet spot between inspirational and commercial.
The collection was inspired by two women who moved the men in their lives to accomplish great works while at the same time blazing their own creative paths. One was Emilie Louise Flöge, who was the subject of a number of Gustav Klimt’s greatest works as well as being his longtime companion. A couturier, she was also credited with stripping out whalebones and corsets from her dresses, marking a shift in the fashion of her day. The other was Celia Birtwell, Ossie Clark’s wife and the muse of the British painter David Hockney. Birtwell is also a renowned textile and fashion designer.
The designer picked these two extraordinary women because, according to the show notes, they “share a singular approach to life: they combine fragility and sensuality and give strength and depth to feminine grace.”
That text could have just as easily described what Chiuri and Piccioli are doing at Valentino.
The collection started strong with a graphic and geometric play on black and white ensembles that brought stripes, squares, triangles and rectangles together on dresses and skirts, or were blown up so big on oversized sweaters that only the outlines of peaks and valleys of the shapes could be made out. From there the designers beautifully moved the geometric shapes directly into the silhouettes themselves. The contrasting colors of black and white were used to highlight the panel-like construction of the bodice of a tunic or give volume to a shape by adding an overly of fabric to a minimalistic white top. Without a doubt all of these designs could absolutely work in the real world.
From there the duo started adding in a play on colors as another way to emphasize the optical geometry of the lineup. A multihued fur had each of the different shapes on the pelt referenced in a particular color. Dresses crafted from strips of lace were given a bold strip pattern thanks to each band being dyed a different shade. Later more monochrome designs used tiers of tulle, contrasting piping and woven leather fringing as other ways to cleverly add a sense of geometry into the garments.
While this collection might have felt a bit dominated by all the black and white offerings, whenever the designers turned to prints, including those created in collaboration with Birtwell (check out the dragon dress and sweater), they continued to excel. The smart way a feather print dress came to life thanks to precision pleating or how a colorful coat, which looked like hallucinogenic artwork, was constructed were both masterful examples of the designers’ couture talents. Then there were the black gowns that came adorned with silver filigree embellishments or those embroidered with oversized flowers and butterfly wings. The list of sartorial marvels just goes on and on.
So even though this show ended with a big, fun loving laugh, the collection itself underscored just how serious these two designers are when it comes to their creations and their customers.