The liaison between fashion and art is old and complex, but more often than not, fashion houses use artist collaborations to give brute commerce a semblance of culture. Pierpaolo Piccioli brought Valentino’s latest haute couture collection to Venice tonight, staging the show at the Arsenale complex of shipyards that also hosts the Venice Biennale. And yet, “fashion is not art,” declared the designer.
Aware that art has no function while fashion needs to dress a body, Piccioli, with the help of writer and curator Gianluigi Ricuperati, involved a group of international painters in the creation of a few of his outfits, adapting their work to specific dress forms or the opposite. The approach was different to those who simply borrow artwork to use in a print. Piccioli was most interested in the act of translation, in the dialogue, in the idea of building a factory. And yet, despite his best intentions, the results did not really surpass the status quo: when art meets fashion, it invariably turns into surface decoration.
The collection — a hypermodern, streamlined take on classic couture tropes — found its brilliance elsewhere: in fearless use of colour and emotional geometry. Piccioli has mastered a signature in couture that is like melting ice: cold and precise, yet trembling on the inside. That’s where he excels.