In an industrial warehouse space on the outskirts of Milan, clusters of foliage sparsely interacted with concrete pillars and clumped together along the floor. It was an act of nature reclaiming manmade space. Powerful in concept, the effect was achieved by 120 hours of labor to build the set, which was constructed from 1,200 flowers and plants of 34 varieties from eight different countries.
We know this because prior to the “phygital” show, Valentino streamed a video on Valentino.com that acted as visualized show notes, depicting the act of construction. Despite the odds, the Valentino Spring/Summer 2021 show gathered together masked attendees who sat on widely spaced blocks (for social distancing purposes), while the rest of the world watched the proceedings online. The nature-reclaimed space set the stage for a new mode of Valentino dress, one that has moved away from maximal, full-coverage flounce toward looks that were fluttering, floating, and imbued with romance.
Backed by a soulful live performance by Labrinth, Valentino defined its Spring/Summer2021 collection as one “that swings between extremes”, and nothing could bear the truth of that more than the contrast between the first and last look. The first is a summertime sheath pinafore in an unexpected shade of jet black that skims the top of the thigh, and the last is a crimson red, sheer chiffon gown that billows out from the body.
Although the Valentino aesthetic has been simplified this time around, there are still spectacular pieces to behold.
The high/low mix is the thread connecting each look in the collection: romantic peasant blouses are paired with Levis denim (from Valentino’s new collab with the denim brand), lace doily fabrics are made from straw, and show-stopping dresses are made from crocheted knit covered in florets along the skirt. Craft touches many of the looks, as does Valentino’s now-signature big bloom prints. The famed ‘Rockstud’ also returns to the runway, this time with oversized studs that decorate both massive bags and pointy flats – these are surefire best sellers come next season.
Although the Valentino aesthetic has been simplified this time around, there are still spectacular pieces to behold. We fell in love instantly with a chartreuse gown covered in opaque Rorschach blots atop sheer fabric. The blots are outlined in glittering paillettes, making the whole surface shimmer. Fringe was also back on the menu, exemplified in one gorgeous copper sequin dress with fringe trim. The show closed with a confectionary finish, ending in a parade of optimistically vivid gowns in shades of lilac, tomato red, neon orange, hot pink, and marigold, each decorated with fluttering accents. After such a gloomy year, Valentino strikes a confident pose, assuring us of brighter days ahead.