Pierpaolo Piccioli And Jamie Nares On Finding The True Labours Of Love
Harper's BAZAAR Singapore|January 2022
Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli and artist Jamie Nares on finding community, collaborating on couture, and the true labours of love
The history of fashion-and-art collaborations is both fruitful and fraught. It’s one filled with a handful of moments of genuine newness, like the “shoe” hat Salvador Dalí famously designed with Elsa Schiaparelli in 1937 and so many others that have resonated like awkwardly performed duets—uneasy exchanges of currency and credibility. But for Valentino’s Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli, there is something much more essential at the core of the relationship between fashion and art: A shared impulse for self-expression, a mutual desire for human connection. It’s an idea the designer sought to explore in the Valentino Des Ateliers fall/winter 2021 haute couture collection, unveiled last July at the Gaggiandre, the 16th-century shipyards at the Arsenale in Venice.

With the help of curator Gianluigi Ricuperati, Piccioli engaged 16 artists—Francis Offman, Luca Coser and Wu Rui among them—to collaborate on individual looks that graced the Venetian-waterway-turned-runway at sunset. Over the past year, Piccioli spoke with each of the artists extensively about their work and how they view the world; as much as any shared aesthetic or visual language, it was these talks, he says, that informed the collection. As has been Piccioli’s practice for the past several seasons, both the clothes and the casting for the show were non-gendered.

The grand finale was a voluminous white and red cape and dress inspired by a pair of minimalist brushstroke paintings by British-born artist Jamie Nares. The 68-year-old Nares has been a prolific figure in the New York art world since the early 1970s, when she played a pivotal role in the then-burgeoning downtown film and music scenes. In addition to painting, her work spans video, photography, performance, printmaking and sculpture, along with an array of hybrid forms, and frequently explores notions of physicality, movement and time. Nares is also known for reinventing the traditional tools of her trade, creating her own implements and devices. The two paintings that served as source material for the Valentino look, It’s Raining in Naples (2003) and Blues in Red #1 (2004), are part of a group Nares has been making since the 1980s using oversize custom-made brushes of her own design, which she swipes across canvases, sometimes while suspended from a harness. Each painting is made up of a single brushstroke; the canvases are laid flat to avoid dripping and treated to allow Nares to wipe away efforts that don’t make the grade—an extraordinary amount of forethought and labour that go into capturing a single gesture in a solitary moment.

In late September last year, Piccioli, at the Valentino headquarters in Rome, reconnected with Nares, who was at home in New York. After the show in Venice, Piccioli had a version of the dress they collaborated on made for Nares, who publicly came out as transgender in 2019. Nares is wearing it in the picture that accompanies this conversation about the intersections of fashion, art and life.

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