Paris Fashion Week: Powerfully Wearable Collections At Valentino and Celine

Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage (3)
Valentino Fall 2017

Designers keep things grounded.

Valentino is back, maybe better than it’s been since the man himself stepped down in 2007.

The fashion house has been under the sole control of designer Pierpaulo Piccioli since 2016, and his second ready-to-wear collection, presented Sunday afternoon at Hotel Salomon de Rothschild at Paris Fashion Week, may have been even more stunning than the first.

Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri designed Valentino as a team effort from 2008 to 2016, when she took the top job at Dior. And honestly, their designs for each of the houses seem better off now that they have consciously uncoupled. It’s not that what they were doing at Valentino before wasn't good; and certainly, they did wonders for the balance sheet with all those must-have Rockstud accessories. But their clothing designs could feel overly historical and costumey, too precious for mere mortals to wear.

On his own, Piccioli has pioneered a new aesthetic, bringing an ease to the Valentino brand of romanticism.

Take those famous red dresses, for example. Founder Valentino Garavani designed his first in 1959, and they became a vavavoom mainstay in his collections until he retired, worn on the red carpet by the likes of Anne Hathaway and Andie MacDowell.

In Piccioli’s hands this season, Valentino red translated into Victorian-inspired lace dresses that recalled Ruth Negga’s custom Valentino Oscars gown. One came embroidered in degrade red sequin tiles, another with delicate contrast black lace insets and beading, and a third edged in pale pink ruffles, each a stunning Valentino Valentine fit for a star but down-to-earth at the same time.

The collection was a cornucopia of dresses defined by inverted pleating, floral embroidery on sheer tulle, or lace insets, each with an elegant approachability and an easy silhouette.

Coats were the other highlights. Pink is becoming somewhat of a signature for Piccioli after the showstopping pink brocade coat from his debut solo RTW outing, and this season he followed it up with several more, including one that was slim and tailored and another in a cape style. There was also a great trench embroidered with delicate black beads.

There were nods to hippie chic in the tiny boho braids models wore in their hair, to the Memphis art movement in the feel-good symbols on dresses and velvet separates, and to a rebel spirit in biker and riding boots with ankle-baring cutouts that kept the breezy collection anchored. There was so much to fall in love with, and not one piece looked like it would require Spanx to squeeze into. How’s that for girl power?

Celine designer Phoebe Philo also showed a powerfully wearable collection, and on a set that showgoers won’t soon forget. Designed by French artist Phlippe Parreno, it had audience members seated on turntables that rotated 360 degrees, bringing them full-circle around the runway as models dashed by in clusters like city dwellers rushing through the day.

It was a metaphor, perhaps, for the whirl of women’s lives (truth be told, the rotation made some in the audience feel a tad nauseated, as dizzying days can do.)

But the clothes were there to move with you, everything you’d need to go from dusk to dawn, from a power pantsuit with exaggerated point-collar white shirt, to a wear-anywhere black evening dress hemmed with white-and-black fringe, to a map-printed coat to help find the way.

If you took the time to focus on the details, each piece had something special, from the just-so, caped short sleeves on a black blouse, to the cascading, shell-like embroidered bib on a black column dress, to soft, extra-wide lapels on the perfect trench coat.

There were plenty of covetable extras, too, including a new oversized tote, glossy white calfskin booties, gold T-strap party shoes, initial necklaces, leather neckerchiefs and oversized mohair blankets.

The Celine universe has never felt more wide, more accessible or more relevant.