Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli been shifting the needle on inclusive model casting since his influential haute couture spring/summer 2019 presentation brought showgoers to tears. Three years on, the beloved creative director, whose front rows lined with other designers are testament to his reputation, is still making a case for community-driven couture. For an industry built on elitism, this is no mean feat. Today’s Paris presentation, during the spring/summer 2022 season, was another step forward towards a couture vision that includes everyone.
After 57-year-old Kristen McMenamy opened the show with the kind of commanding presence only decades on the runway can provide, a group of men and women of all ethnicities, ages and sizes walked through the gilded rooms of Paris’s Place Vendôme. Yes, there were the usual house favourites, including Adut Akech and Mariacarla Boscono, but a fleet of fresh faces, from grey haired beauties Lynne M Koester and Hannelore Knuts to plus-sized models Levie Hsieh, Devyn Garcia and Angeer Amol, showcased a collection exploring “the anatomy of couture”.
“It’s really important today to talk about body awareness,” Piccioli told Vogue fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen of his decision to enlist 10 new house models with differently proportioned bodies upon which to fit his latest collection. This alone was not enough. He wanted to imbue every woman wearing his work with “the same magic; the same emotion; the feeling of couture”, so that they felt elegant and not like a box-ticking exercise. “If she’s beautiful, you can be beautiful,” said Piccioli of his desire to deliver “a strong message for young people who are struggling with something”. In a world that still puts certain beauty standards on a pedestal, it’s never “mission accomplished”, but Piccioli is certainly paving the way for a better future.