NorthThere is nothing more radical in fashion than a thigh or a belly, even slightly rounded. At Paris haute couture fashion week, Valentino defied the last catwalk taboo by wearing models whose bodies were mostly close to average size, rather than super slim. With the elegant understatement his gowns are known for, designer Pierpaolo Piccioli simply observed that he “thought it was time for a change.”
The enduring hegemony of the size zero ideal in fashion has been obscured by the tendency to use one or two token “plus size” models in a show, often dressed in longer, looser garments than their slender counterparts, to that his meat does not offend. Here, by contrast, leather-look satin hugged full-size curves, and the deep thigh-high slits in the silk fault skirt gleamed glimpses of smooth thighs. The bustier dress met skin with a hint of flesh oozing softly, rather than the clang of zipper against shoulder blade.
Fashion has lagged behind culture by rigidly clinging to model proportions unchanged in a century. Valentino looked dreamier than ever with more identifiable bodies that showcased Piccioli’s skill as a couturier, a factor that may prompt other designers to follow suit. “The message does not change in its purpose, which is to convey beauty, but in its welcoming expression,” said the designer.
Haute couture, where dresses are made to order at six-figure prices, is an unlikely conduit for the winds of modernity, but Piccioli thinks the symbolism of diversity at fashion’s top echelon is powerful. In five years he has revolutionized what was once a bastion of patrician glamor into one of fashion’s most progressive names. A house fashioned in the image and likeness of its founder, permanently tanned Valentino Garavani, who dressed Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor and had a sofa installed on his private jet for his beloved pugs, now stands for inclusivity. The cast of this show “reflects the richness and diversity of the contemporary world and … an idea of beauty that is not absolute,” Piccioli said.
Two years ago, when a Valentino haute couture runway featured a cast of 65 models, 43 of whom were black, Piccioli said that “although [couture] celebrates uniqueness, which is synonymous with diversity, has always meant to be [sic] for whites.” He told Vogue that, in the context of growing anti-immigration sentiment in his native Italy, “having a Roman brand represented by black beauty goes against all the xenophobia in Italy.”
This week’s Paris couture shows have all but returned to live events, albeit with smaller audiences due to fewer visitors from Asia. However, the run-up to New York fashion week, which starts in two weeks, has been plagued by announcements of delays. Tom Ford, whose show had been scheduled for the closing night of the New York shows, canceled the event, citing Covid-related delays. “We have struggled internally over the last month with many of our staff with Covid in our design studio and workshop in Los Angeles, as well as in our factories in Italy… [we] we are faced with the sad fact that we simply will not have a complete collection in time.” Designer Thom Browne also cited manufacturing delays as a factor in postponing his February fashion week show to an April date adjacent to the Met Gala, London’s most star-studded annual fashion bash. New York.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism