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Over the course of their eight-year joint tenure as the creative directors of Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri put a distinctive stamp on the maison, giving Mr. Valentino's signature romanticism a 21st century update. This season, the Valentino show in Paris marked the moment when Piccioli—now heading up the brand solo—broke through to a new era for the house, rewriting the brand vocabulary in a language all his own. 


Piccioli had teased some of the themes in this space-inspired collection before: Notably, since Chiuri's departure, he's been pushing the label in a sportier direction, designing daywear with glam to match the gowns for which Valentino is best known. But this outing was distinctive in its tone: Consulting the archives, his bible, Piccioli rediscovered Valentino's assertive side, a mood elaborated in the house's 1980s-era collections. Strong shoulders were reinterpreted as cape-like covers on see-through motorcycle jackets. Disco embellishments were re-worked for the street, with glittery sequins embroidered onto tank tops, anoraks, shorts, and more. The pouf of Mr. Valentino's couture gowns was abbreviated, cut into micro-mini dresses. And that no-holds-barred '80s volume was given new life by means of softness and fluidity, with Mr. Piccioli draping diaphanous dresses of silk-satin or patterned-dappled chiffon.  The overarching impression was a take on Valentino's 1980s aesthetics that delivered force without weight—a brilliant proposition, brilliantly executed.


Mr. Valentino and Mr. Giammetti, seated in the front row, were among the first to stand for the ovation that greeted this remarkable show. Among other achievements, Mr. Piccioli proved—yet again—how durable the Valentino legacy is. The ideas that Mr. Valentino explored as a designer are still fertile: Seeds planted by him decades ago continue to bear delicious fruit.

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