Wind of Change: arrivederci Pierpaolo e bongiorno Alessandro!

The game of fashion musical chairs is on! Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino will be replaced by a fellow Roman designer Alessandro Michele. What does it mean for the industry and what will happen next? 

It’s one of the most unexpected shake-ups in the fashion industry: after serving at Valentino for a quarter of a century, Pierpaolo Piccioli is leaving the storied Roman house. His place will be taken by another fashion icon based in Rome, Alessandro Michele, who will be making his epic fashion comeback after departing brutally from Gucci in November 2022. What a time to be alive and following fashion!  

When Piccioli showed his all black collection back in March during womenswear season, no one could have imagined that it would be his last outing for Valentino. Now, everything seems perfectly clear: black is the most classic, elegant and tragic colour in fashion. What a stylish way to bid farewell to his studio and his biggest fans! But then, as one watched the collection go live, blissfully unaware of what was happening behind the doors, we perceived it in a different way, as a powerful fashion statement. After a completely pink collection ahead of Barbiemania for autumn-winter 2022, and more recently a menswear collection centred around the blue colour for autumn-winter 2024, it seemed like another fashion manifesto from the iconic designer. Well, I am sure it was, as every silhouette in black looks even more dramatic. There is nothing extra, it’s all about the essentials, shapes and forms. Other dressmakers do it too. Think sculptors of fashion Chrotobal Balenicaga or Azzedine Alaïa. Daniel Roseberry for Schiaparelli played this trick a few times, as well, though he loves adding a touch of gold to his all black silhouettes. 

The news broke out the very same week, Dries Van Noten announced that he will be retiring after his menswear show in June. For me, as for thousands of fashion enthusiasts, it was probably one of the saddest weeks in the history of fashion. We are witnessing how one era of iconic long-living designers, who were caring so much for the crafts and the craftsmen behind them, is unfailably going to end. Nothing can be done about it. What is more, nobody can be reassured that the industry is changing for the better. Actually, we don’t know what will happen next, and if those at the top designer positions today will be still doing the same job, as Pierapolo did, for twenty-five years. Or in the case of Dries, for almost half a century.  

So what is going to happen next at the house of Valentino? Well, Alessandro Michele always wanted to try haute couture. And at Valentino, he will be treated to an access to Alta Roma seamstresses, considered ones of the best in the world. He is also a Roman designer, so he understands the codes of the most Roman of all Italian houses like no one else. And he has a solid base of fans (among celebrities as well, Billie Eilish, Jared Leto and Harry Styles are among his biggest aficionados), who are craving for his new whimsical designs. Where there is Michele, there is always a good dose of fashion drama, poetry, attention to the zeitgeist, theatrical fashion shows to take your breath away. And as a result, critical and financial success - Michele was a favourite of buyers, journalists, stylists and fashion writers, and helped Kering parent company turn Gucci into a blockbuster brand. Revenue at Gucci almost tripled during his time at the helm of the label, from €3.9bn in 2015 to €9.7bn in 2021. 

“I feel the immense joy and the huge responsibility to join a Maison de Couture that has the word “beauty” carved on a collective story made of distinctive elegance, refinement and extreme grace,” mused Michele on his Instagram page, announcing a new chapter in his professional life with his signature poetic approach to words and fashion.

He continued: “I search for words to nominate the joy, to regard it, to really convey what I feel; the smiles that kick from the chest, the bliss of gratitude that lights up the eyes, that precious moment when necessity and beauty reach out and meet. Joy, though, is such a living thing that I’m afraid to hurt it if I dare to speak its name.”

His first womens’ ready-to-wear collection for spring-summer 2025 will be presented in September. And we can’t wait to see it.

Courtesy: Valentino 

Text: Lidia Ageeva