Pierpaolo Piccioli’s latest collection took on a feminist slant, with garments marked by their engagement with the body

“The body, representative of freedom; the female body, emblematic of anticipation.”

Thus began the show notes for Valentino’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection, L’École, as Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli looked beyond beauty, style, and tailoring to deliver a collection that packs a political punch. “This summer, there was horrible violence in Italy. The government’s response was to say that girls should be careful [about] what they were wearing,” the designer said in the lead-up to the show, referencing the victim-blaming comments of Andrea Giambruno, partner of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. “Real feminism today is about giving women freedom.”

Piccioli’s designs sought to convey “a fundamentally feminist aim”: to afford women comfort in their own skin, free from the male gaze or societal expectation. That meant going barer than usual: plunging necklines, sheer fabric, short skirts, or longer ones, slit up to the hip. Valentino introduced a novel technique: Altorilievo, or High Relief, where naturalistic forms—fruits or flowers or animals—are patchworked like a quilt, leaving gaps that frame the naked body.

Beyond Piccioli’s engagement with the ‘skin as fabric,’ this collection placed an emphasis on more basic garments, “marked by their direct engagement with the body.” Models donned t-shirts and jeans, low shoes and slouchy bags—a counterpoint to the collection’s more formal pieces, equally sensual in linen, denim, and raw silk.

“Maybe this is the most exposed collection I’ve ever done,” concluded Piccioli. “It’s about body and nudity, but without any clichés of sexiness.”