Valentino’s Creative Director: “This Is The Inclusivity Of Haute Couture”

Valentino's spring 2019 haute couture show proved you don't have to dress like a meme to go viral. What Pyer Moss' spring 2019 collection designer Kerby Jean-Raymond started by exploring what it means to be Black in America; Valentino's creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli took it a step forward, reimagining high society if it embraced Black women.
“What if Cecil Beaton’s [1948] photograph of those Charles James dresses could be with Black women?” Piccioli told Vogue after his show backstage about what influenced his casting. On Tuesday, the designer shed more light on his monumental show in an emotional caption on Instagram. "Couture is a dream. Although it celebrates uniqueness, which is a synonym for diversity, it has always meant to be for white people," he wrote under a photo of him embracing Naomi Campbell.
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Piccioli specifically mentioned legacy Black publishers Ebony and Jet as pioneering magazines that made a great effort to give Black beauty the deserved dignity. He also mentioned the late Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani's Black Issue.
But for him, the casting went deeper. "To have a Roman brand represented by Black Beauty goes against all the xenophobia in Italy and, hopefully, all over the world. With this Valentino Haute Couture collection, my hope is to deliver the message, as strong as I can," he wrote. "Change the aesthetic and you change the perception of people more than any slogan. Everyone is allowed to dream, this is the inclusivity of Haute Couture. This is the Haute Couture Naomi and I believe in."
Last Fashion Month, across the board, the spring runways saw huge improvements for castings involving non-white, plus-size, and transgender/non-binary models. However, Milan came in last when it came to racial diversity. "Europe is old, conservative, and very stuck in their ways," French model Clémentine Desseaux, told Refinery29 in August, saying there still isn't enough of a market in her home country to build a viable career as a plus-size model. "They know what works and what’s safe and do not even try to change things up for fear of losing what they have."
Piccioli showed 65 looks and more than half of the models were Black, including Adut Akech who opened the show. "I can honestly say tonight was the first time I have ever been surrounded by so many beautiful Black models and the feeling I felt tonight I can never explain in words," she wrote on Instagram. "And to be able to lead the girls in this show is something so very special to me. Thank you for making us not only look but feel so beautiful."
"My job as a designer is to reflect an idea of the times we live in," Piccioli told T Magazine last August. "And in Valentino, I feel that I’m in the right place, because the values of the house are my personal values. I’m Italian, I’m Roman, and so Valentino is part of my own culture, my own story. This idea of craft, of beautiful tradition, is expressed through the human touch. A couture house means people."
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