Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli is taking a stand for inclusivity, featuring regular sized models as well as models of a certain age alongside stick figures.
For the Spring/Summer 2022 fashion show in Paris, Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli tried something new: he enlisted the help of plus-size models. With the haute couture world mostly showcasing their designs on size-zero bodies, models with eating disorders who struggle to keep thin, this was a welcome break.
Piccioli simply stated that he “thought it was time for a change.” And that change was welcomed, as models who were more closely aligned to the everyday woman than the svelte models of yesteryear strutted down the runway.
The Guardian notes that the trend has been to add a few token plus-size models to fashion shows while dressing them modestly “in longer, looser garments than their slender colleagues lest their flesh offend.” But this was not the case at Valentino’s, where plus size models were dressed as elegantly and sexily as their skinny counterparts.
Valentino’s dresses looked lovely on plus-size – actually normal people size – models, a fact that the Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley attributes to Piccioli's skill as a couturier, which she says might prompt other designers to follow suit.
“The message does not change in its purpose, which is to convey beauty, but in its welcoming expression,” Piccioli says.
Piccioli is celebrated for “revolutionis[ing] what was once a bastion of patrician glamour into one of fashion’s more progressive names.”
To be fair, the Valentino outfits still carry price tags that makes them inaccessible for most people, but Piccioli seems to think he is taking a step in the right direction: the casting of the Spring/Summer ’22 show, he says, “reflects the richness and diversity of the contemporary world and … an idea of beauty that is not absolute.”
“I have reflected on the body. The repetition of the house model proportion has always been the rhythm to follow and I thought it was time for a change,” Piccioli says. “Creativity, as life itself, is possible only in a non-homogenous environment.”
Even the fashion bible Vogue seems to have taken fond notice. In a glowing review of the Valentino Spring/Summer ’22 show, the magazine celebrates the designer for “making a case for community-driven couture,” observing that “For an industry built on elitism, this is no mean feat.”
Piccioli’s model selection includes Black models as well as models who have gone grey, who have spent decades in the industry. Two years ago he featured 43 Black models out of a cast of 65, noting “although [couture] celebrates uniqueness, which is a synonym for diversity, it has always meant to be [sic] for white people”.
Piccioli also told Vogue UK in 2019 that featuring Black models was his way of countering xenophobia in his homeland: “I felt like having 20 black models in the show, that being a Roman brand represented by black beauties, was louder than just voting. It was going against the stupid xenophobia.”
Piccioli has put his money where his mouth is, even though he is but one designer in a very expensive fashion house trying to make a difference. Let’s hope his vision inspires other designers who won’t just pay lip service but act on diversity as well.
THUMBNAIL IMAGE: Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli entrusted makeup to veteran artist Pat McGrath who gave models beautiful eyes with wings. (Christian Vierig/Getty Images)
HEADLINE IMAGE: Designer Pierpaolo Piccioli says the casting of the Spring/Summer ’22 show “reflects the richness and diversity of the contemporary world and … an idea of beauty that is not absolute.” (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
INSTAGRAM CAPTION: "This collection interrogates the body, this collection challenges the canon. It does so, after a long reflection, and it does so in order to represent a wider idea of beauty.
I wanted humanity to be the beginning and the ending point of the dream and of the magic of Couture. And I will be forever grateful to everyone that made all of this came to reality.
Once again and always grazie."