Q&A: Valentino’s creative director talks Rodeo Drive menswear, spirit animals and a decade at the helm of the house

Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli at the finale of the spring and summer 2019 women's runway show in Paris on Sept. 30, 2018.
(Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA-EFE)

Last month, Rome-based luxury label Valentino debuted a 550-square-foot men’s space inside its Rodeo Drive boutique, joining New York, San Francisco and Bal Harbour, Fla., as the brand’s only U.S. standalone stores with areas dedicated to men’s apparel and accessories.

To mark the Nov. 19 opening of the shoebox-size men’s space (which occupies the former women’s shoe salon space on the ground floor), the label released limited-edition spirit-animal pieces (think track jackets and belt bags, bucket hats and T-shirts with the menagerie of motifs rendered in micro glass beading and delicate embroidery) from the spring and summer 2019 runway collection available only at the Beverly Hills boutique and other stateside men’s collection stores.

We caught up with the brand’s creative director, Pierpaolo Piccioli, in Paris a few days after he presented his spring/summer 2019 women’s collection to talk about the importance of streetwear, the role of music in fashion and what he has learned in his decade at the helm of the house. (From 2008 to July 2016, he shared the duties with longtime creative partner Maria Grazia Chiuri, and he has served as sole creative director since.) Here are a few excerpts from that conversation.


The spring/summer 2019 women’s runway collection you just presented feels completely different from the men’s collection you showed here in June. The men’s had a definite streetwear vibe, and the women’s felt almost tropical. Do you envision and design the collections together or are they completely separate endeavors?

The men’s and women’s collections are completely different, but the idea behind them — the spirit of them — was the same. For men, I did it in one way by bringing couture to the street, by involving the kind of music that influences the young generation. For women, I did it in a different way by using rough sand [textures] and feathers. So you tell the story a different way, but it’s the same story.

Why is it important to you to bring couture-level workmanship to streetwear?

I don’t think that [streetwear] is a trend. It’s a way of being today — streetwear as well as a less formal approach to dressing. It’s not just about the suit [anymore] but about wearing a sweater and wearing jeans. If I’m going to do street, I have to do it with a Valentino level of craft. Otherwise I become generic, and then what reason do you have to choose Valentino?

Some of the pieces in the men’s spring/summer 2019 collection also have connections to musicians — ASAP Ferg, Nas, Syd and Keith Ape, to be specific. How did that come about?

I connected with them because I was very interested in the influence that music has with the new generation. And I feel like now, more than ever, musicians are really the new heroes of the young generation. They say something. They [are aspirational figures]. Valentino is not a brand that has been very close[ly linked] to the music [world], and I want it to be part of the culture, and music is definitely part of the culture. … I love the idea of mixing the language of music with the language of fashion to deliver a manifesto of freedom to the young generation — to show them a new Valentino that’s inclusive and more open to possibilities.

What did they contribute to the men’s collection?

I asked them to choose items in the collection with the VLTN monogram logo and then pick their spirit animal, [and then] we created those pieces. Nas [picked] the lion. Keith Ape [picked the] ape. ASAP Ferg [chose] the black panther, and Syd was the peacock.

At left, a look from the men’s spring / summer 2019 emblazoned with an ape (the chosen spirit animal of South Korean rapper Keith Ape). At right, a bag embroidered with a lion — the choice of rapper Nas as well as the brand’s creative director Pierpaolo Picciolo.
(Kristy Sparow / Getty Images (left), Estrop / Getty Images (right))

What was the thinking behind asking them to pick a spirit animal?

I think because it’s something that represents you — a characteristic of you — that’s not just about appearance. It represents your inner self.

What’s your spirit animal?

Me? The lion, maybe.

Because you’re the king of the jungle?

No, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because he’s kind of a loner.

What’s on your playlist right now?

I change it quite often, but now I’m obsessed with the singer Tirzah. She’s young. She’s English and she has a beautiful voice. She did the song that just opened the [women’s spring/summer 2019] show. But I continue to listen to David Bowie, to the Rolling Stones, to different decades of Italian music. I don’t really have a musical genre.

Is there something that you listen to that people might be surprised about?

Italian pop music. Maybe it’s not the most elegant or sophisticated, but I love that old disco music from the ’80s a lot.

How has your job changed in the last decade you’ve been at Valentino?

I’m definitely more aware now of what I’m doing. You learn that you have to not only do collections but to tell a big story about the brand. You have to know where you want to take it, how you want to transform the brand, how you want to update it. Because the world is changing and if you are in your safe territory doing Valentino, [then] the brand is not relevant for the contemporaneity. I want Valentino to be relevant for the moment we live in, so [I] always have to update and change and see what’s happening in the world. My job is about giving a vision of beauty [that reflects back] the time I’m living in. If I do only a beautiful collection but one which is not related to the times, I’ve only done half my job ... I’ve created something beautiful but that doesn’t touch the emotions.

Has the rise of social media affected the way you do your job?

It is definitely a way to get a perspective on the world. … You can immediately feel how different people see something, and it can change your perspective.

Does the new dedicated men’s space at the Rodeo Drive store say something about the importance of the market here?

Los Angeles is where culture is happening — in terms of music, cinema and art. The vibe of the city is interesting. There’s a certain energy that you can feel there.

If you had the opportunity to design costumes for any concert tour in the world as a way of getting Valentino the right kind of brand exposure, whose would it be?

I actually don’t know, but after my couture show, Beyoncé did decide to wear the last dress [from the collection on stage]!

Valentino, 324 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills,

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