For Fall/Winter 2021, Valentino Does “Punk” for the First Time

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Although an argument can very justifiably be made that real punks would never cross the catwalk threshold into the luxury fashion realm, the punk movement continues to be a touchstone for fashion ever since it irreverently ripped, roared and spit its way onto the scene in the 1970s. We look up to punks because of their shoulder-shrugging, establishment-challenging attitudes and their avant-garde/chaotic aesthetic. Take Valentino’s Fall/Winter 2021 “punk” references, however, with a sack of salt. Pierpaolo Piccioli is so emotionally intelligent, and so tenderly attuned to the rhythms of women’s lives that punk at Valentino almost seems like an oxymoron. 

And yet, there is a sense that maybe he was doing something a little defiant, after all. For one, he staged it at a theatre that has long been closed due to COVID, Piccolo Teatro di Milano. But it was a theatrical performance, sans a live audience, channeling straight to the online consumer. The show notes called it, “an invitation to aggregation and sharing when these activities are denied.” That’s pretty punk. They say don’t, but we do. They say stop, but we go.

For Fall/Winter 2021, Valentino Does “Punk” for the First Time

The cocooning shapes, huge volumes, and trippy floral prints he’s so fond of have been stripped away this time, leaving a monochrome black-and-white palette and short hemlines in their wake. Diamond-shapes had been etched into the surfaces of many looks, slashing the seams of the diamond silhouette all the way through to reveal flesh below. It created a “net” effect that was a nod to punk’s preference for mesh and fishnet. The clothes felt a little melancholy, which was thematically supported with a minor key performance by singer Cosima and the arrangement of looks on raised stadium tiers under rows of spotlights. 

Capes and outerwear in general were all strong offerings for the Fall/Winter 2021 season, as were a variety of chunky leather boots embossed with florets, and graphic black and white crossbody bags appointed with oversized ‘Rockstud’ details. Couture-level surface treatments kept things from getting too predictable, as looks came out adorned in a chorus of Chantilly lace, fringed pailletes, crystal beading, and feathers. No punk would ever deign to look so regal.

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