Last year, Pierpaolo Piccioli was surprised to discover that his teenage daughter Stella had pilfered and adopted one of his suits, styling it with a shirt and tie. She dressed like this just to go out with friends.
“For her, it was not traditional, it was not classic – it was just something new that she didn’t know,” he related. “Even tailoring, like a classic jacket, a necktie or white shirt – for young people, it’s something new.”
That skinny, superfluous length of silk became the springboard for Piccioli’s punchy Valentino collection for fall, and indeed the starting point for each outfit.
The white shirt – sometimes blue, sometimes red – was never far behind, as in the opening look of a pristine white collar, with the black tie fanning out to become a sexy black minidress. Karl Lagerfeld, whose neck was forever shielded in starched cotton, must have been smiling down from the heavens.
Piccioli seemed to relish working within that narrow framework, and managed to coax many moods and spark random associations with neckties, not only school uniforms, but also ska bands, Lagerfeld, the “Men in Black” film franchise, Kraftwerk’s “The Man-Machine” album cover and even Avril Lavigne, who has been turning up all over Paris Fashion Week.
During the preview, he noted that neckties are closely associated with power, masculinity and uniforms, but once worn by an array of individuals in various ways, “you take away the meaning of the symbol, and it becomes more like a personal gesture.”
The designer’s cast skewed young and edgy – so much so that their winged eyeliner, neck tattoos, nose and lip piercings sometimes distracted from the black ties.
The mood of the show – and certain garments, especially the striped coats and the barely there mini skirts and shorts – closely echoed Valentino’s partywear-centric “Le Club Couture” show last July, which opened with a white shirt and tie. Aided by the plethora of Rockstud shoes and combat boots, the mood on the ready-to-wear catwalk skewed more punk.
The tailoring was generous in proportions, seen in the plethora of beefy overcoats and handsome pea coats for men and women – some in racing-flag intarsias, others bearing polka dots.
Piccioli elaborated on the graphic appeal of the shirt and tie, sparking outfits with colorful or sparkly tailoring. In the end, his creativity with shirts seduced the most – some big and voluptuous; others sinuous, accruing sequins and ending in fishtail hems.
Feather embellishments or rings of fluff transformed plain white shirts into black-tie material, meaning dressy enough for a fancy party.
Piccioli conscripted Massive Attack founder Robert Del Naja to compose an original soundtrack for the show, adding a gripping, occasionally disquieting energy to the display, staged at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild.
Before the first model hit the white carpeted venue, Interview editor in chief and stylist Mel Ottenberg zipped around with his smartphone asking various VIP attendees on camera if they knew how to tie a necktie.
Piccioli might need a refresher course. Asked during the preview the last time he wore a necktie, he thought about it for a moment, and then replied: “A long time ago actually.”