Valentino: From Undercover to Birkenstock in a great show
Two collaborations – one with mass and the other with hyper advanced mode – were the key to the latest collection by the house of Valentino, presented with consummate skill on Wednesday evening in Paris.
Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli teamed up with Germany’s most ubiquitous brand Birkenstock and Japan’s most acclaimed conceptual fashion designer, Jun Takahashi of Undercover, in parallel design partnerships and the result was a stellar menswear collection.
Some 500 guests gathered inside the Galerie Courbe, a still rather dilapidated show space inside the Grand Palais for the show. The sense of anticipation was palpable.
With Takahashi, Piccioli whipped up a great potpourri of images, ranging from space ships, flying saucers, REM, 90s rockers and Ludwig van Beethoven – Ludwig making appearances on beige mohair sweaters, intarsia coats, jacquard trenches and even in the soundtrack.
In a brilliant mix, ace DJ Michel Gaubert blended Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Langley Schools Music Project’s justly famous version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
The entire cast walked on high-tech, ergonomic sneakers or Birkenstocks, generally in a tough chic black.
“It’s great working with Valentino. One of couture’s greatest houses. Naturally, we’ll retail this very selectively: in our flagships, their bigger boutiques and on the web. And, I couldn’t be happier than to be in Paris with Valentino,” beamed Oliver Reichert, the giant CEO of Birkenstock.
Birkenstock sold some 30 million pairs of shoes last year, priced on average below 100 euros. The Valentino versions will sell in less than 20 Birkenstock locations for around 400 euros. That’s what you call narrowcasting in fashion.
“I believe that Valentino is a couture marque that must be contemporary today. To do that, I am more concerned that Valentino be more relevant than beautiful. That’s the reason I wanted to work with Birkenstock, as it’s probably the most universal brand in the world. It’s like a pair of jeans, it’s cool. So putting together that universality of Birkenstock with the ultimate individuality of couture creates a tension that elevates Valentino,” argued Piccioli.
Elsewhere, this was a remarkably black collection for Piccioli who has made Valentino a destination for high-end floral fantasy clothes. Felt wool coats; deep khaki outerwear and Quadrophenia parkas, all finished with the Undercover-meets-Valentino imagery. Often with VU stamped on the backs.
“The rules for clothes for men haven’t changed much for several centuries, until recently that is. Now, however, the rigid rules are all broken down. So, my goal is to make sure sartorial and street-wear live well together in the same wardrobe,” argued Roman-born Piccioli.
He added that the Undercover designs were born from a “personal friendship with Jun. We worked very closely together, using each of our selections of images – everything from the Space Age to Clockwork Orange. No need to explain this rationally, it just felt right!”
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