Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
PARIS--“Sportswear is the modern uniform, and we are trying to create sportswear with the feeling of traditional craftsmanship. Valentino has a heritage of couture, but we must make that part of the new world,” said Pier Paolo Piccioli at the quiet lunchtime presentation of the Valentino men’s collection, which took place in the brand's the sumptuous Place Vendôme office. Rather than a fashion show, designers Maria Grazia Chuiri and Piccioli personally narrated how specific pieces were made and spoke of evolving Valentino menswear into a modern, relaxed, luxurious collection.
The collection was mainly individual garments of graphic and linear jackets, boxy military outerwear and slim trousers and denim in dark olive green, camel, charcoal and white. Each piece can be layered over one another in any casual or dressed up manner.
“This is about the elegance of sportswear, not evening wear,” said Piccioli as he turned the blue cotton linen jacket inside out to show the handiwork that was as detailed as a made-to-order item. “Here’s a daytime tuxedo jacket,” he said, holding up a chocolate-colored fitted jacket with contrasting fabrics that can be worn with matching pants or with tan cotton tuxedo pants. Somehow the look is totally sensible.
“We combined technology and tradition to create something that is contemporary and now,” he said in reference to a green military safari jacket, as well as a nylon anorak with intarsia-embroidered stitches on the outside. There was also a green plaid jacket made of a new type of nylon that was as light as a shirt.
Indeed, the Valentino couture heritage permeated each garment--a combination of traditional sewing and high-tech treated fabrics--like shirts made of Japanese dry cotton and ultra-light nylon, some heat-bonded to create strength. One great jacket was in navy twill hopsack with cotton knit sleeves, worn with navy fitted pants and a cotton tank. I also liked a black short sleeve shiny leather safari jacket with printed cotton shorts.
“When you understand how the clothes are made, you can appreciate the clothes," said Piccioli. "It is not about showing off. There’s an Italian saying: 'You can know a man from his wardrobe.'"
It was a refreshing way to see the clothes up close, with two models changing into different outfits while waiters served champagne and hot hors d’oeuvres and the designers carefully guided editors through their creations. It was also a nice moment of reflection in an era when tweeting a look first is more important than discovering new ideas. And surely a serving of cru salmon on small rectangular bread doesn't hurt.