I spent a miraculous week in Rome, weaving my way through the crowds, ancient ruins, the people cheering Berlusconi's resignation and the Ara Pacis Museum, which honored one of my style icons, Audrey Hepburn, a woman who adored the city and its designers, including Valentino. While there I had the unique opportunity to drop into the legendary Valentino Atelier in the heart of the Eternal City.
QUESTIONS FOR MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI AND PIERPAOLO PICCIOLI, CREATIVE DIRECTORS OF VALENTINO
1. You've been working together as Creative Directors for three years now and the latest reviews are glowing for spring. What makes you such a good team?
To be Creative Directors means you must have a vision for the brand and work towards that vision. As a creative duo, we must share visions, but also maintain our individuality in order to give depth to what we create. In the past three years, we have been doing exactly that: balancing the brand's heritage with our vision of style for today's modern women.
2. How does your fashion training in Rome and working for Valentino inspire you to forge new directions while honoring his legacy and impact on fashion and The Eternal City?
Rome is definitely a very stimulating city; the sense of history here is visible everywhere. We live it daily: the light, the streets, the piazzas and churches of Rome speak of a timeless, effortless beauty that we continuously discover with new eyes. Our aim is to build on style, not on trends.
3. What are your favorite things about working at the Valentino atelier?
To work with our Couture Atelier is a magical experience -- each collection is like a new voyage that brings us to the completion of a dream. The realization of a collection and of each dress is cultivated as if it were a flower. The culture of couture is essential as it defines timeless contemporary attitude through the rigor of sartorial craftsmanship.
4. How does the history of Rome and Valentino come through your creations?
Rome is a myth, like Valentino -- our past as accessories designers has always given us the desire to create iconic, timeless objects that can also be used in a contemporary way -- beauty and dreams are part of our history as well as Rome's. Each of our collections is like a picture from a movie, like the memory of Pasolini, Fellini and Antonioni, the Dolce Vita era. This glamorous history is expressed through the sensibility of what we are living in that moment.
5. What are some of your most preferred ancient sites and places in Rome? What inspires you?
We have the wonderful opportunity to have our offices in Piazza Mignanelli, which is next to Piazza di Spagna and Villa Borghese, the core center of this city. In the Palazzo where we work, the Pope used to privately receive his family; it is a mix between the history of Rome and the history of Valentino. This location is where other famous Rome stylists, such as Capucci in the 50's, used to have its atelier. It's quite incredible how history is alive here; this is what makes Rome unique.
6. Who are the celebrities you love that wear Valentino today?
Keira Knightly, Florence Welch and Anne Hathaway
7. Are you planning on developing any new collections for the Valentino brand?
Presently we are concentrating on our role as Creative Directors of the Valentino Maison. In the future we plan to do shows also for our Men's collections. We love new projects, which challenge us, such as the Red Valentino collection.
8. With your background in exquisite detail work is there a new erogenous zone (shoulder, back, décolletage, waist) or material you are working with that inspires you both?
In this moment we are very inspired by the sensuality of a woman's neck and shoulders. We love to work on new solutions that enable us to emphasize them through special materials and the use of them in different ways.
Our concept of style is to mix contrasting elements, such as leather, chiffon and lace, to obtain a new balance.
Seduction is subtly linked to the imaginary. We believe that it is important to describe a more private sensuality, a romanticism made of strong private passions, by highlighting certain parts of the body, such as the neck and the shoulders, so that one can then imagine the rest. It's kind of a subversive elegance.
9. Since both of your beginnings at Valentino were in the accessories division, what is a must-have bag or shoe you both agree on this season?
For fall, python boots and the rock stud python bag. For next spring, definitely the lace espadrilles.
10. What is the fetching new color and silhouette from your spring collection you expect stylists to be clamoring for this awards season?
Definitely the first exit of our Spring 2012 show, the white dress -- it represents next season's silhouette. The cotton work on this dress represents the feel of the entire collection.
Also, the long red macramé dress from this collection, quite austere and romantic!