Alessandro Michele’s journey through Valentino’s archive

As the designer, who took over from Pierpaolo Piccioli as Valentino’s creative director, was about to (surprisingly) share his first Resort collection online, we visited the Maison’s Roman archive. Here, we discovered that there are more points of contact between Michele and the Valentino style than expected 

by Domenico Casoria


Alessandro Michele has been Valentino’s new creative director for a few months now. The appointment immediately generated a series of (legitimate) questions, to which the designer responded with his first collection. A Resort shared online, in a rather atypical way, just a few hours before the Gucci men’s collection goes on the catwalk in Milan (on 17 June). Nothing casual, one would think. However, the subject of this article is not the possible provocative subtext of this choice. We are interested in something else. That is, how do the maximalist and hyper-decorated approach typical of Alessandro Michele’s work tie in with the simple lines (only in appearance) of one of the brands considered the symbol of a particular fashion? The answer has to do with the archive.

The Valentino archive

We are talking about the one in Piazza Mignanelli, in the centre of Rome, where the maison keeps a part of Valentino’s cultural heritage. Only a part, because we are talking about 8,000 dresses, 11,000 accessories and an endless series of sketches and drawings that outline the history of a brand that, since 1959, has succeeded in transforming clothes into poetry, combining fluidity and elegance. The Valentino archive is not structured in chronological order, but the first dress is emblematic.

We are talking about a red dress from the 1959 Spring/Summer Haute Couture collection, in wavy chiffon and decorated with a series of red roses in the same material. Why is it important to start from here? It is the perfect synthesis between the clean lines typical of Valentino and a decorative one that, however, is hidden in the details. Not just red – the colour that has consecrated Valentino to history – but a journey into the DNA of the brand.

Lush prints

Some dresses from the 1980s highlight Valentino Garavani’s use of prints lushly embossed on clothes. Not only flowers but also dragons, rhombuses, references to Viennese artist Josef Hoffmann or azulejos. It is precisely references to these azulejos that stand out on an ivory-coloured dress from the Spring/Summer 1998 Haute Couture collection that is hand-painted and, for this very reason, cannot be washed or treated. It is a dress that stands the test of time, bound to a destiny all its own, and in a way combines innovation and old-fashioned elegance.

The Journey of Alessandro Michele

It is no coincidence, therefore, that in preparing his first fashion show, it seems that Alessandro Michele spent a good deal of time in the religious silence of the Maison’s archives. He did so precisely to understand how Valentino managed to fuse visual synthesis and technical mastery in a perfect exercise in style. Alessandro Michele’s debut was scheduled for September, but the designer decided to present a Resort collection in June.

Spoiler: as well as unsettling the fashion world, Michele drew on the 60s and 70s from Maison’s archives, dusting off the style of Valentino’s early days: romantic, abundant, and at times decadent. Without, of course, renouncing his maximalist, decorative, reference-filled touch. Much of Alessandro Michele’s work will inevitably pass through the heritage that seems distant from his way of doing things but which is, instead, perfectly in line. A heritage that he has chosen to mould on contemporaneity. Will it work?

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