Pierpaolo Piccioli Is Exiting Valentino

Are we in for another round of designer musical chairs? The latest seat to open up is at Valentino. On Friday morning, the Roman house announced it was parting ways with mainstay creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli.

In a statement, the move was described as a “joint decision to end their collaboration.” “I am grateful to Pierpaolo for his role as Creative Director and for his vision, commitment and creativity that have brought the Maison Valentino to what it stands for today,” said CEO Jacopo Venturini.

Piccioli joined Valentino in 1999 alongside fellow designer Maria Grazia Chiuri. The duo became co-creative directors of the brand in 2008, and Piccioli became sole creative director in 2016 when Chiuri joined Dior. A romantic through and through, Piccioli in the statement described his tenure in epic terms. “Not all stories have a beginning or an end, some live a kind of eternal present that shines so bright that it won’t produce any shadows,” he said. “I’ve been in this company for 25 years, and for 25 years I’ve existed and I’ve lived with the people who have woven the weaves of this beautiful story that is mine and ours.

“Everything existed and exists thanks to the people I met, with whom I worked, with whom I shared dreams and created beauty, with whom I built something that belongs to all, and that remains immutable and tangible. This heritage of love, dreams, beauty and humanity, I carry it with me, today and forever. This is the beauty that we have created: life, hope, opportunity and gratitude, and my people, my heart, and the love that gives you all the possibilities of the world, especially those that you could not imagine alone.”

When Piccioli took over Valentino, he was determined to redefine the famous couture and tailoring house for a new generation. The old money gravitas of founder Valentino Garavani was swept aside and replaced by a young, modern energy as Piccioli diversified the runway casting and front row. Though throughout his career he has lived in his seaside hometown of Nettuno, his work responded closely to youth style trends. He embraced streetwear influences and made several credible “It” sneakers, and also understood the shifting terrain of masculinity, employing feminine color stories and design details in menswear and focusing most of a recent men’s collection on skirts and tailored boyshorts.

Backstage at that show, held in Milan in June 2023, Piccioli explained his modern menswear philosophy. “I think that being a man has nothing to do with sex,” he told me between drags of a cigarette, wearing his ubiquitous Wayfarers. “I don’t care who you have sex with. It’s about showing your fragility, your intimacy, your tenderness. You can be assertive even if you don’t follow the rules. Being a man for centuries was about following rules or laws of society, and you couldn’t show your intimacy, you couldn’t show your vulnerability. And I think that is not freedom or power.”

His efforts to subvert what he saw as the binaries of “fanciness” and “machismo” in menswear led to several viral pop cultural moments. His attempt to liberate the color pink from its traditional associations led to countless celebrities strutting around in searing fuschia-hued menswear, and he liberated the thighs of Pedro Pascal and Jacob Elordi in memorably brief suit shorts. It’s no coincidence that in 2019, GQ’s New Masculinity issue was fronted by Pharrell wearing a dramatic puffer gown Piccioli designed for Moncler.

Following Matthew M. Williams’ departure from Givenchy and this week’s surprise Dries Van Noten retirement announcement, there are now enough high-profile creative director job openings to potentially reshuffle the upper echelons of luxury fashion on a scale not seen since 2018. Already, WWD named Chiuri and former Gucci potentate Alessandro Michele as potential successors. Valentino is majority owned by Qatari investment fund Mayhoola, but the Roman brand entered the orbit of the French luxury complex last year when Kering purchased a 30% stake. For now, Piccioli’s next act is also uncertain. In the statement, Valentino indicated that a new creative organization will be announced soon.

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