5 Questions for Valentino’s Creative Directors

Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have something to celebrate. Not only was Valentino’s spring ’12 runway show one of the design duo’s most critically acclaimed but it also marked their third year at the helm of the label.

“We try to translate all the iconic elements of the Valentino brand in a contemporary way, but also [add] our personal style: more edgy, more modern,” said Chiuri.

After beginning their careers together 20 years ago at Fendi, the joint creative directors forged a professional relationship that has endured changes in houses and leadership. A shared passion for creating feminine looks with luxurious details and a special affinity for accessories continue to inspire both designers. The pair also shares an understanding of the personal nature of fashion.

“We are the designers, but after [the purchase], it’s the woman who decides how she wants to wear it,” Chiuri said. “Something could be nice for me [worn] in a certain way, but for another woman it’s not right. Each woman can decide for herself.”

Chiuri and Piccioli appeared at New York Fashion Week this past fall to promote the Valentino Boot Couture Collection on Bergdorf Goodman’s redesigned shoe floor. The line’s fall ’11 offering featured navy, chocolate and toffee hand-painted python boots and sheer lace boots with leather trim, all in limited-edition runs.

Here, the designers talk muses and making Valentino their own.

How will you celebrate your three years at Valentino?
PP:
We need a party. You want to give us a party? We just landed last night in New York. We went immediately to the Boom Boom Room [at The Standard Hotel]. The Boom Boom Room is one of the important New York places in this moment. We like it. The shoe floor at Bergdorf Goodman is another. And Central Park. We like to do these iconic things because we are obsessed with iconicism.

After overseeing the creative direction of the company for three years, do you believe you have successfully broken out of Valentino’s shadow?
PP:
I think we’ve made [the label] our own. We respect — no, it’s not just about respect — we like the story of Valentino. And one part of this story we really love is that it’s part of our [history]. We worked with [Mr. Valentino] for 10 years. So it’s our story, too. But we are evolving in a different direction that is more personal.
MGC: We went to the Fashion Institute of Technology with Mr. Valentino in September, [when he received the 2011 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion]. He is an iconic designer. In some ways, he himself is iconic. But we are different.

What shoe silhouettes are especially important for spring ’12?
MGC & PP:
[Our bestselling] Rockstud collection is continuing in new variations and is still very important. High vamps, wedges with cork, leather cutouts and micro-studding are ways that this category has been updated. Metallic patent, slides, tooled flowers and crystals are also important to the collection. Color is very important, [such as] acid yellow, coral and jade green.

Who are your favorite muses?
MGC:
We really don’t have one muse. Of course we like Keira Knightley. We dressed her in Venice [for the Venice Film Festival] in our gold couture gown. I also liked Lady Gaga in our green collared coat. She’s so new. My personal [muse] is my daughter because I love the young generation. They look at fashion with a very fresh [perspective]. She inspires me. She speaks about things without [preconceptions]. When you see the new generation, it’s so exciting because they think in a simple way and are more free and easy. Sometimes they are also funny, thinking something is too extreme but wearing it anyway. It’s too much for me, but I like it in any case.

What else is in the works for the Valentino brand?
MGC & PP:
The world of Valentino is in continuous evolution. This year we also did a fashion show in Hong Kong. The Chinese press and client base is extremely welcoming and our business in China has grown. We look forward to expanding more in the Asian market, as well as other parts of the world.

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