Why Pierpaolo Piccioli Took Valentino to Beijing

"Only when you put together two different cultures, two different worlds and you make them live together, you can create a great harmony."

Pierpaolo Piccioli
Photo: Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Getty Images

While many designers reprise their runway shows from Paris and Milan around the world in order to target a consumer base for luxury goods that long ago became a global marketplace, Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli decided to create an entirely new couture collection for a show in Beijing on Thursday evening. And at a moment when many others may be hesitant to take such a risk, Piccioli decided to go big with a statement not only about fashion, but also about himself. Here he gives an exclusive Q&A to InStyle.

What kind of statement were you hoping to make by creating an entirely new couture collection to show in Beijing?

I always think it is important to get closer to this world, but I didn’t want to do a collection that was “inspired by.” I wanted to keep the identity of Valentino as a couture house, so I decided it’s going to be a Valentino couture show but in a very classic way, showing the extravagance, the boldness, but also the very Italian Renaissance heritage. I feel that being here it is very important to be close to my own identity and the identity of the house in order to evaluate the diversity. Only when you put together two different cultures, two different worlds and you make them live together, you can create a great harmony.

But how can audiences see that distinction on a runway?

I don’t think you need to overlap. It’s good to underline the differences and the diversity. That’s why my collection is going to be very Italian, very Renaissance and place it in this Imperial Summer Palace, so it’s going to be the grandness of the couture and Italian culture with the grandness of Chinese one. Together they create a moment that is unique because it is two big great cultures together.

Valentino Beijing 2019

Why not do a collection inspired by China?

I didn’t do it because I wanted to do the opposite. I wanted to go very deeply into my roots, my Italian roots just because, especially when you go into another place, you have to close to your world in order to tell your own story. If not, you become generic. It’s interesting when things are different and together they become one, for one night let’s say, but it’s the harmony you can create because I don’t believe things have to be similar to go together. You can create harmony with dissonance. For some reason they work together, the color and the collection and the decoration of the space. Another thing that is very important, i feel that apart from geographic boundaries, what links us all are emotions. It’s part of being human beings - dreams, and emotions, are universal in a way, so that’s why I called the experience a Daydream because I wanted to create something that was worldwide, but also very personal. Each one of us thinks, feels and dreams differently, but all of us dream and feel and think. That’s something that links all of us together in the most universal way.

What appeals to you about Beijing?

I love the history and culture. I’ve been fascinated by the Summer Palace and Imperial China, I love the decorations and the history of the rituals. I love the opera of Beijing and the fact that they translate emotions into symbols. That’s fascinating because emotions are free in a way, not always of course, but the idea of expressing them into symbols is very interesting in a way. I like the diversity. I think it’s important to be respectful, to respect each other.

Valentino Beijing 2019

What else do you like to see in Beijing?

I’d go to the Great Wall, it may be obvious but for me it is impressive to see this big, architectural, almost natural space. It’s the fantasy for me. I love the Forbidden City, and maybe I’m a bit banal, but I like these places.

Why did you create an entirely new collection for Beijing, when you’ve already shown two couture collections in Paris this year? Aren’t you exhausted?

For me it was important especially on this occasion to show the different facets of the Valentino world, this is made of young people approaching fashion, and i wanted to give them the idea of a new Valentino. Ten years ago it was difficult to think of Valentino as streetwear and day wear, and now today I like the idea of having streetwear and couture together. It’s an opportunity to express the world of Valentino as filled with tensions between high and low, the street and couture, the present and the past. For me it’s an experience in a different world, and to show in a different world, you have to be even more close to your own identity.

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