Since starting this blog in 2010, I’ve been lucky enough to interview some truly amazing and inspiring individuals within the fashion industry. On a personal level this has been so brilliant and given me the opportunity to gain insight into the careers and creative processes of people who’s work I’ve long admired. From what I can gather, you guys have really enjoyed these interviews too so it’s a win win for all involved, result! This particular interview is really quite a special one and was an extraordinary and wholly unexpected opportunity for me to have had. So without further ado let’s talk to Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpolo Piccoli, Creative Directors of Maison Valentino…
LPA: During your time as Creative Directors of Maison Valentino you’ve managed to achieve the rare balance of commerciality and artistic integrity. How did you approach this challenge initially and what, in your opinion, have been the most important factors both in terms of design and communication?
MGC: Really, Valentino is a couture brand and it is a Roman brand. Couture is a very specific thing and we never think about the commercial approach (with couture) as we might for other lines. Fashion is about desire and you don’t create desire then there is no way to interest people. What is important is to create something that is exciting and inspires emotion. It’s that which guides our approach to design and running Valentino.
LPA: The luxury market and luxury consumer have changed immeasurably since the early years of Valentino and continue to do so every day. How have you honoured the brand’s unique heritage and retained the exclusivity that characterises luxury while engaging with an ever increasingly wider and more varied global audience?
MGC: Like I said, couture is our core but that doesn’t only relate to the couture collection itself, it represents a value. There are cultural values that are about the craft and couture being one of a kind. We also trust that these elements extend to other parts of the brand that are really democratic. For example, in our store you can find denim couture that allows you to decide on the stitching, the label… And this approach is important for a wider group of people today. Couture is the best limited edition you can have and if you translate this value – the idea of something being bespoke whether that’s a gown or a pair of jeans – to other clothing categories then you can reach many different people. Now we don’t think that people all over the world don’t just want to wear something once. They want something that is very close with themselves, that is really one of a kind and desirable to them. That’s our approach.
PP: The young generation is new and so don’t don’t know about couture. To allow them to understand it, the values and fact that couture can be cool, you connect it with a new generation nobody. You have to educate that couture is a culture and also that it leads onto the future, it doesn’t belong in the past
LPA: I think it’s fascinating how in recent years Haute Couture, a level of luxury that for all but a very select group will always be entirely unattainable, has captivated a wider, younger and more diverse global audience. Whether it’s a case of bloggers like myself attending couture shows or a young girl living in Hong Kong watching the livestream, couture is not only relevant to vastly more people than its clientele but also to some degree more accessible. Why do you think this is the case?
MGC: In the past couture was not something strange. You are very young but it was once normal to use couture, Pret a Porter is still comparatively new. After big name brands like Valentino and Armani started to create Pret a Porter collections, the next thing was fast fashion; labels that wanted to follow trends with very cheap things that you can change every day. The new generation who haven’t experienced couture themselves now was to come back to research it as they are seeking something that has more value and it better quality. So they are interested in learning about couture as it’s different to today’s fast fashion. The younger generation are tired of that so they want to learn about something more timeless, one of a kind, better quality.
PP: The young generation need values today and giving them the idea of couture is like giving them an identity; values to believe in. When you think to couture as something which is not sacred, as something that in a noisy world is the most individual experience, you can relate to it in a different way. Today everything is about digital, everything is about surfaces. Whereas when you get to experience couture it’s it’s about emotions, it’s about dreams. When you see the hours of workmanship behind couture you can feel that people were working on these clothes. So in a way to relate to them and you feel the human touch, that’s why I think people today, and many young people, are again interested in couture.
LPA: On the whole I think it’s fair to say that many luxury brands were slow to adopt digital media as part of their communication strategy but now do so hugely effectively. Valentino has of course used digital and social media brilliantly and imaginatively. How involved are you, as Creative Directors, in this aspect of brand communications? And what have you found to be the direct effects of your willingness to embrace new technologies and increased openness, along with the risks that go with doing so?
MGC: It’s a difficult question because honestly, personally I’m a designer and began when there wasn’t digital media and my approach to fashion today is consistent with what it was before (digital media) and really serious. I believe that the woman has to find a beautiful idea and also to find an incredible dress that fit perfectly and the quality is perfect. After that comes the image of the dress. And pictures are different digitally because when it’s a picture in a magazine, you can see a little bit more. I understand now that you have to speak two different languages; one language that you see in reality, the clothes themselves, and another language that is the picture of the clothes in a magazine. Now with the arrival of social media, the picture is even more important. So of course you lose something sometimes or other times these new images bring out something even stronger. I think that you can change how your communicating something but you have to understand the language you’re using to do that. You have to understand the language you’re speaking at that time, whether your using digital media, traditional magazines and advertising campaigns or showing clothes themselves. These languages can live together and that’s what we are trying to do. At the same time we have to keep our own brand values. For the older generation seeing the quality, ideas and consistency behind the clothes themselves is more interesting and that is the case for me but at the same time, I know that in other ways of communication like digital those aspects are not so visible sometimes. That doesn’t matter, it’s not a big problem.
PP: I think that these new platforms are new opportunities to tell your stories but it’s so huge that if you’re not really faithful to your identity you can lose it and go in a very generic direction. So it’s very important to me that even when we’re using digital media and different ways of storytelling, that Valentino stays really close to its roots. To tell a story that is really interesting for everybody and if you can talk to people all over the world, then the stories you tell have to be really authentic.
MGC: I’m not personally very digital, my kids are much more so than me. I’m fully in support of digital but I think you have to be careful not to lose your values and yourself, whether that’s personally or in the case of Valentino. You have to maintain an identity because your opinion about what you do can be changed by the opinion of others, I’m convinced of that. You have to think of what you really believe and not let that be conditioned or changed.
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