Maria Grazia Chiuri's departure from Valentino — as officially confirmed this week by her former employer and future one, Dior — leaves the Italian brand in a peculiar position. After 17 years of working together and eight leading Valentino, Chiuri and co-creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli are parting ways. Instead of searching for a new designer, as so many other luxury houses are having to do right now, Valentino has elevated Picciolo to sole creative lead. The question remains how, and if, the brand will change under his independent leadership. Since the two took over in 2009, Chiuri and Picciolo have revitalized Valentino in a youthful, covetable way that has resonated with customers — reaching over $1 billion in annual sales — and won over editors who were initially skeptical as to how anyone could carry Valentino Garavani's brand into a new chapter.
As we say goodbye to the end of an era at Valentino, let's take a look at the signature accessories, silhouettes, styling choices and motifs that defined Chiuri and Picciolo's tenure at the brand.
When Chiuri and Picciolo debuted a series of kitten-heeled, stud-emblazoned stiletto pumps on the runway in 2010, the comfortable height and edgy grommets instantly took off. By 2014, it seemed like every blogger and celebrity had a pair in one or more of the many color combinations and heel heights the brand still releases. The Rockstuds got the Terry Richardson treatment in fall 2015 when the photographer was hired to shoot an accessories campaign featuring his own tattooed limbs.
Chiuri and Picciolo have been known to dive into different whimsical themes each season. They haven't shied away from embracing elaborate animal patterns and graphics, whether it be a gown covered in butterfly appliqués or bird-printed separates.
The pair have taken inspiration directly from artists and artistic movements of the past, including the Dutch Masters, Andy Warhol and even pop art.
Chiuri and Picciolo's upgraded take on the camouflage print was a hit both on and off the runway, transferring over from the brand's menswear (see: Derek Zoolander) to its women's pre-collections.
One could count on Valentino to deliver a steady stream of dramatic capes under Chiuri and Picciolo's leadership. Whether they were long, short, theatrical or minimalist, the outerwear piece was an opportunity to show off luxurious fabrics and embellishments.
Theatrical & Cultural
Another signature Valentino move of the past eight years has been experimenting with historical and cultural garb. The fall 2015 couture collection, for example, was full of pieces that could have worked on-screen on "Game of Thrones," while the most recent couture show elevated Shakespearean pantsuits. Chiuri and Picciolo also love to riff on traditional garments of other cultures (also known as cultural appropriation, which often sparked controversy), as evident in spring 2016's Africa collection and resort 2017's Cuba-inspired motifs.
Perhaps the pair's favorite theme is Rome — where Valentino has its headquarters — and Italy at large, both past and present. Whether they dove into Renaissance-style silhouettes, Age of Exploration-inspired maps or '70s Fiorucci maximalism, Chiuri and Picciolo's joyful exploration of Italy's DNA won over audiences and differentiated itself from other Italian houses.
Demure, But Sheer
Count on Chiuri and Picciolo to deliver some show-stopping gowns that manage to cover much of the body — with long hems, sleeves and even high necks — while also revealing a woman's skin through expert tailoring and/or swaths of sheer fabric. The results are seriously delicate, feminine dresses that are as prim as they are sexy.
This is a big one. Regardless of theme (or even if it's a couture or ready-to-wear collection), Chiuri and Picciolo invested the time and manpower into awe-inspiring, handcrafted embellishment including elaborate lace, voluminous bows, acres of tulle, delicate plissé, complex embroidery and dense beadwork. These pictures don't do it justice.
Long Dresses With Flats
While this might seem like a relatively small styling note, it's actually a very Valentino combination that exemplifies the way Chiuri and Picciolo brought a fresh modernity to the house's feminine eveningwear.