It was a tale of two bros, really. Pierpaolo Piccioli met Jun Takahashi of Undercover when Valentino put on its show in Tokyo at the end of last year. Takahashi and Piccioli decided to collaborate on prints that would appear in both of their menswear collections, one after the other. “It’s a social experiment!“ Piccioli said backstage as the Valentino boys were lining up.
Takahashi has done the artwork—themed on Edgar Allen Poe—with time traveler slogans, spaceships, skulls, and a joint VU logo for the Valentino-Undercover branded bits. But the double-faced shapes and the thinking are still very Pierpaolo. He said he’d been looking at the fluidity of Italian tailoring in the 1980s—there was a Herb Ritts photo of a louchely relaxed Valentino suit on the moodboard—but the learning he took from that was thinking how to integrate sportswear into it. “To me, Valentino is a couture house, but to be relevant today, it has to be more inclusive and open to new opportunities. That’s my idea, always.”
So up came another idea: a collaboration with Birkenstock. “It is a shoe that has universality, like denim. It has no gender, no status,“ he said. But Birks in winter? “Ha! They’re seasonless too,” he laughed, pointing at the models’ feet. “Just wear them with socks.”
Piccioli is adamant that men are not going to give up streetwear, or at least the comfort that goes with it, any time soon. “I’m not going to renounce sneakers and put back on shoes every day!“ he said. “So the thing is to find a new way to integrate sportswear. To have a coat with the ease of a hoodie.” Still, there’s a distinct Italian-accented glamour about what Piccioli showed. Not any of the tighter-‘70s looks that are beginning to emerge, but something more like a layered trapeze volume, moving away from the body. Very Italian.