PARIS, France — Pierpaolo Piccioli is Roman. That naturally predisposes him towards the wild, the wayward. And, in fashion terms, that could easily mean English eccentricity. For his solo womenswear debut last season, Piccioli tapped Zandra Rhodes. For this season’s menswear, he collaborated with Jamie Reid, arbiter of punk iconography. Reid was always a dab hand at cooking up a slogan. His contributions here read BEAUTY IS A BIRTHRIGHT CLAIM YOUR HERITAGE and IT SEEMED TO BE THE END UNTIL THE NEXT BEGINNING. Comments on a postcard please.
And yet, if you paused to think about those words, there was some kind of personal weight for Piccioli. Under his and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s tutelage, Valentino became a statement about breathless, saturating beauty. When she peeled off for Dior, it might have seemed to be The End. But he has orchestrated the Next Beginning.
Although, on the evidence of the men’s collection that Piccioli showed today, that “beginning” is curiously dogged by the past. Autumn/Winter 2017 is already a season where “reality” is the overwhelming buzzword. And why not? Socio-politics suggest there’ll be little escape from a prosaic grind of lesser human instincts in the immediate future. So Piccioli’s collection caught the mood of the last time such an atmosphere penetrated popular culture to such a degree. Which was, of course, the late Seventies. On the soundtrack, David Bowie sang I Can’t Give Everything Away, the last song on his last album. It could have fitted into Low, his late-70s masterpiece. So could the “realness” of the clothes: cropped peacoat, plaid Crombie — supreme sartorialism totally relaxed — hoodies, everything with sneakers. Clothes The Man Who Fell to Earth would have worn with aplomb.
Piccioli was talking about how the certainties of masculinity have evaporated, that now is the moment for men to claim a new kind of freedom. It’s glorious to think that a coat in orange casentino or a duffel in pistachio or a jacket in oxblood leather (all of them, by the way, utterly edible) could be standard bearers for a new kind of man. Reality is a much grimmer proposition. But, oh, how we can dream.