The Surprising Reason Valentino’s Digital Haute Couture Collection Was Better Than the Real Thing

The Valentino haute couture show was a “phygital” affair. The production, which took place, in part, in Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, featured a live presentation alongside a video created in collaboration with Nick Knight.

A physical audience, consisting of Italy-based media and a handful of local influencers, was supplemented by an infinitely larger digital one. The performance (digital segueing into physical) was streamed live on the Valentino website and on the house’s social media channels.

Valentino artistic director Pierpaolo Piccioli presented 15 giant white dresses showcased by models, some of which we assume were wearing stilts. Other models were seated on swings and hoops suspended from the ceiling in the manner of 1920s showgirls.

At first glance, the whole thing was a curious combination of haute couture tradition (it’s a couture week custom that the last look presented in every show is a wedding dress) and digital add-on. The two didn’t immediately appear to marry up.

Valentino, fall '20 haute couture.
Valentino, fall ’20 haute couture.
CREDIT: Giovanni Giannoni / WWD

However, delve a little deeper and it gets interesting. While, of course, the wedding dress is steeped in haute couture tradition, the concept proved a rather more pragmatic one.

Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the atelier was unable to function at normal capacity in terms of fabric dying, printing or embroidery — hence the blank canvas idea. Knight’s film used digital technology to superimpose virtual prints onto the white gowns.

Valentino, fall '20 haute couture.
Valentino, fall ’20 haute couture.
CREDIT: Giovanni Giannoni / WWD

Problem is, the concept wasn’t immediately apparent, or communicated, leading a lot of people not to put two and two together. Which was a shame because it was a neat idea.

To give Valentino the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they wanted us to draw our own conclusions and demonstrate that we can appreciate things on completely different levels. Anyway.

Valentino, fall '20 haute couture.
Valentino, fall ’20 haute couture.
CREDIT: Giovanni Giannoni / WWD

“I don’t think digital is my world — I belong to the atelier world — but I like to enter into a conversation with it, and I don’t demonize it. It gave a new opportunity to the atelier when we could not dye, embroider or print,” Piccioli told WWD. 

And in his own way, maybe he nailed it.

FN spoke to shoe designer Pierre Hardy last week following the main tranche of the season’s primarily digital shows.

He said he felt that only a handful of brands had succeeded: “It’s difficult to transform yourself from a fashion designer to a movie maker,” he observed. “It’s a very complicated exercise to shift from one system to another.”

Roll on September.

Now watch Nick Knight’s version here. 


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