Valentino F/W 20-21: Reflection, Hope, and Rebirth Amongst Tragedy

Hey everyone, my name is Janie Tompkins, and in this column I will share my thoughts on all things fashion, from shows and industry news to campus based fashion events. I have a true passion for fashion, and it informs a large part of my daily life. While I will write about topics that the average person may not be fully aware of, I hope to make fashion something that is accessible to everyone, including those who aren’t gurus de la mode. If you have any suggestions, contact me

While our lives seem as if they have been put on pause in the midst of a global pandemic, designers around the world have remained hard at work. With Covid-19 making in-person shows nearly impossible, many designers opted to participate in a series of all-digital fashion weeks to showcase the collections for the Fall/Winter 2020-2021 season. The last of these collections to show was Valentino’s “Of Grace and Light.”

“Of Grace and Light” designed by Pierpaolo Piccoli was the final show of the first all digital fall fashion season. Deviating from Piccoli’s typical use of bright, saturated colors, the collection featured 15 ensembles in varying cream and white tones. Each dress was over ten feet long, with the models requiring stilts or trapezes to showcase the dresses in their entirety. Photographer Nick Knight was hired to shoot the show, and projected various patterns onto the white dresses, adding contrast between the show and the simplicity of the gowns themselves.

While these gowns were quite stripped back, thematically, they spoke volumes. All the looks referenced one or multiple of Piccoli’s previous collections at Valentino. The jellyfish-like headdress was reminiscent of the S/S 2018-2019 collection, the sequined hooded bodysuit and dress resembled several looks in the Beijing 19 and S/S 2019-2020 collection; the floating feather technique was used in the S/S 2018-2019 and F/W 19-20 shows; and the tiered ostrich feather cape and gown hearkened back to dresses in the F/W 2018-2019 and Beijing 19 shows. Moreover, the taffeta gown with square plunging neckline was a play on one of Piccoli’s signature styles, with other notable examples in the F/W 2017-2018, 2018-2019, and 2019-2020 shows.  

While many references to the past inspired reflection, several other elements urged us to look to the future. For starters, the color choice of this collection sets a hopeful mood since white often symbolizes hope and peace. The name of the collection itself, “Of Grace and Light,” also evokes feelings of optimism and equanimity. Moreover, doves and birds were projected onto several of the dresses, as well as the phrase “Non vogliamo essere subito già così senza sogni”, or “We don’t want to be immediately so dreamless.” While we are all dealing with a great deal of grief right now, this collection reminds us that we must not give up our dreams of hope. 

Lastly, the collection featured a sheer cape with embroidered chrysanthemums, yet another symbol of hope and love in Eastern cultures, but often a symbol of death in certain European countries. While death can set quite an ominous tone, we must remember that with death comes rebirth. Perhaps Piccoli is foreshadowing a potential aesthetic rebirth, considering his new use of white in contrast to his previous bold and bright color palette. A noteworthy characteristic of white is that it is often regarded as the sum of all colors, and it is almost as if Piccoli is asking that we reflect on his past collections, and remember that his usual colors are there, even if we cannot see them in this particular collection. Piccoli’s invisible colors can be likened to things we have all lost during this time, whether it is people, experiences, opportunities, or something else entirely. Whatever it may be, we must reflect on it, mourn it, but remain hopeful, for what we have lost in one area of our lives, may be reborn elsewhere, even if we cannot see it.