Time magazine has named Pierpaolo Piccioli, Creative Director of Valentino, in the 2019 Time 100; its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The list, now in its sixteenth year, recognises “the activism, innovation and achievement” of the world’s most influential individuals from all walks of life, from politics to activism, sports, art and more. The finalists are chosen by Time’s editors from a list of nominations proposed by Time 100 alumni and the magazine’s international writing staff. Piccioli was nominated to the list by actress Frances McDormand, one of the few to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting – the Academy Award twice, Primetime Emmy Award twice, and a Tony Award.
Piccioli, known for his humble demeanour, is not one who is afraid to shun groupthink or to express his individuality, while at the same time, holding true to Valentino’s heritage. “From the first days, the most important task on Valentino’s heritage has been to accomplish the perception, the idea and the essence of the Maison rather than reproposing pieces of its archive. It has been a creative process that took as a model the modus operandi of the Atelier of Couture. In other words, the human excellence portrayed in every single detail. From the fashion shows, to the collaborations, to the stores,” says Piccioli.
When he, along with Maria Grazia Chiuri, took over the helm of the renowned brand in 2008, it was in troubled waters. Alessandra Facchinetti, the successor to the brand’s founder Valentino Garavani, had resigned as the creative head after only a year at the helm. The brand itself, although still much respected, had lost some of its sheen and its market share was in decline. Piccioli and Chiuri breathed new creative energy into the brand by bringing the glamour back to its haute couture, delivering growth in the menswear and accessories divisions; the Rockstud collection of shoes being a prime example.
Piccioli has just completed his twentieth year at Valentino. Since 1989, Piccioli and Maria had worked together designing Fendi’s accessories range and had stood out from the crown thanks to their countering of the minimalist trend of the 90s. They instead focussed on sophistication and style which led to the creation of some of Fendi’s most celebrated bags. Both graduates of the Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome, they had met through a mutual friend in the early 1980s and had become close friends.
In 1999, they were approached and recruited by Valentino himself to take charge of its accessories. The pair successfully refreshed the luxury brand’s handbag and eyewear collections, followed by the diffusion line Red Valentino, and then the entire accessories range. Piccioli famously wore slippers on his first day at Valentino, a place where people were expected to wear suits even in the height of Summer. Ten years later, Valentino is a much more relaxed place.
Piccioli also insights on giving recognition where it is due. He insists on honouring the craftspeople in his atelier by sharing with them a meal after a couture event.
“Working closely with the artisans and with the Italian expertise has been fundamental. It has allowed me to understand and perceive the rules in order to break them and rewrite them. Savoir-faire is the base of the designer profession. It is the base from which each creative process begins.”Pierpaolo Piccioli, Creative Director, Valentino
In 2016, the 20-year working partnership with Chiuri was broken when she became the first woman creative head in Christian Dior’s 69-year history. Losing his creative partner seems to have done Piccioli no harm, in fact, the contrary appears to be true. After positive reviews and being named Designer of the Year at the InStyle awards in 2017, his Autumn-Winter 2018 haute couture and the subsequent Spring 2019 Valentino show received standing ovations.
In Piccioli’s Spring-Summer 2019 Men’s Collection, “the street encounters Couture, in a clash.” In a nod to the rise of streetwear into the luxury sector because of the growing presence of Millennial and Gen Z in its customer base, the collection features Bombers, trench coats, tracksuits and suits. Accessories include baseball caps, cloche and feathered sneakers. The VLTN logo is magnified and is writ large, cut out and duplicated.
After spending twenty years in one of the most successful working partnerships in the fashion industry, Piccioli has now proved his mantle as a solo artist, and he has also proven his versatility; delivering acclaimed collections from haute couture fit for the red carpet to luxury streetwear fit for the Gen-Next.