After working at Fendi for almost 10 years, Pierpaolo Piccioli joined Valentino as an accessories designer in 1999. Now, 21 years later, as the sole creative director of the house (following the departure of Maria Grazia Chiuri to Christian Dior in 2016), he has produced some of the most sublime couture and imagery in Valentino’s glittering history. If you are lucky enough to attend a Maison Valentino couture show at Paris’ grand Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, the odds are you will be moved to tears. While each garment is imagined by Piccioli, what makes each collection special is its palpable heart: a combination of Piccioli’s vision and that of his beloved team, who create everything by hand. The members of Valentino’s atelier not only own what they do but are also routinely celebrated, appearing on Piccioli’s Instagram (often with their own soundtrack).
A true couturier, Piccioli is also a true Roman who walks the city (or steps out of restaurants for a cigarette) in his mostly black VLTN tees and sneakers. When he finishes his work in the studio, he jumps into a car to go home to Nettuno, an unpretentious beachside suburb where he was raised and now lives with his wife, Simona; his three children, Benedetta, Pietro and Stella; and their dog, Miranda (named after Priestly, of course).
We meet for lunch at Nino, a restaurant a few blocks from Valentino’s storied headquarters on Piazza Mignanelli, near the Spanish Steps. On the way to our table, Piccioli is stopped by Federico Forquet, a Roman couturier—and Balenciaga protégé—who was active in the 1960s and early 1970s. Now, nearing 90, the elegant Forquet tells Piccioli sincerely that he’d given up on fashion but the designer’s work for Valentino has “reinspired” him. Piccioli smiles widely, says “Grazie mille,” and bounds over to our table.
This sort of interaction is not unusual. Piccioli is routinely stopped by fans and mobbed backstage after his presentations. But he’s not grand. He isn’t humble (an often disingenuous word in fashion) either. Piccioli knows his abilities and how to deploy them, with care, craft and a lack of pretension. And that’s why he is doing something more resonant than creating even the most glorious couture: he’s changing the culture of fashion.
LAURA BROWN: So, Pierpaolo, Federico Forquet just told you that you’ve reinvigorated his love of fashion. He’s not the only one who feels that way.
PIERPAOLO PICCIOLI: He left fashion many years ago because he lost interest in it. So now he told me, “I got emotional from your shows. And, because of you, I found the enthusiasm in fashion again.” That’s the best part of what I do. To have someone not just say, “Your work is beautiful,” but to also be involved in your dream and share the same idea that fashion is magical, and not just marketing, is so personal. And, of course [laughs], I invited him to the next show.
You’ve been doing this for a long time and have always approached fashion with complete optimism. It’s like you’ve peeled away at people’s cold, dead hearts.
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