Trained under the master couturier himself, Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have proved worthy heirs to his legacy: elegance above everything else. Since 2008, the dynamic duo has been creating a harmonious mix of delicacy and edge—an aesthetic that explains why so many celebrities, including Zoe Saldana, Cate Blanchett, and Emma Stone (above), still turn to Valentino for gowns that evoke an individual sense of beauty. We sat down with Chiuri and Piccioli who chatted with us about their design approach, lessons from Valentino, and their music preferences.
How do you describe your approach to Valentino?PP: "We think our job is to give a vision of beauty for our time. Being Italian, we want beauty that is closer to grace. Something that is more demure is no less beautiful."
MGC: "It doesn't matter whether a dress has long sleeves or is more revealing. The important thing for us is that the woman who wears it embodies elegance and grace combined."
You once told me that beauty is how you feel in the moment, yet you also have an affinity for classics.PP: "This idea of beauty is present in every work of art since the 16th century, but we want to go a more contemporary way. Otherwise, it's just stuff. We think it can be interesting to translate something that is very far removed in terms of time or space into our own world and with our own sensibilities."
MGC: "In any case, it is important to create something new that will improve your culture and also improve yourself."
Does it help that you started your careers by designing accessories?MGC: "That happens to be a very good design school, and I am obsessed with accessories."
PP: "You have to create every single detail and tell a story in one object, so it is quite close to couture. With one item you can change an entire look and make it more individual, and that is closer to the idea of what fashion should be today."
What is your secret to working as a team?MGC: "We have fun. We have collaborated for 20 years, so we are like an old couple."
What words would you use to best describe each other?PP: "Maria Grazia is intuitive, passionate, and very curious."
MGC: "Pierpaolo is stimulating. If you look at things alone, you have only one vision. Another person makes you see things from a different angle."
What lessons did you learn from Valentino himself?MGC: "He was very firm in what he believed. He listened to everyone's opinions, but in the end he decided alone. I also learned that elegance is an important word in fashion. He maintains great elegance in everything he does."
Are celebrities as important to you as they were to Valentino?PP: "We see them now not only on the red carpet but also in their daily lives. They create dreams for people, and fashion, much like cinema, has to create dreams."
MGC: "And Valentino is very close to that kind of glamour."
On the subject of music, you have been inspired by rock, classical, and opera. What are you listening to now?MGC: "I went to see Beyoncé in Paris with my daughter, who is more modern than me, so she improves my musical culture. And I also love rap music."
PP: "I'm obsessed with mixing everything. It creates this tension of genres. I love Mika, who is a friend, and also Italian music from the '90s and rock from the '70s. It's good to not just go in one direction."
You don't like One Direction?PP: "Not really, but my daughter is 8, and she loves them. So I listen to them too."
For more features like this, pick up the December issue of InStyle, available now on newsstands and for digital download.