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The fashion flock doesn't get hyped about collaborations as often as you'd think. After all, partnerships between brands have become the norm for businesses wanting to drive novelty and consumer excitement, many missing the mark. But there are those rare moments in which magic is created. Louis Vuitton x Supreme, Raf Simons x Sterling Ruby, and most recently Palace x Ralph Lauren come to mind.
These collabs excited people not only because two brands from different worlds and with distinctive aesthetics met halfway, but more importantly because they symbolized a wider shift in the world expressed through sartorial decisions.
That colossal bang was exactly what Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli sought to generate with his FW19 collection. “Bringing the street’s attitude in the Atelier,” read the brand’s show notes. The notes also announced two collaborations, with UNDERCOVER and Birkenstock. Now that’s the way to get a crowd excited.
Two minutes after UNDERCOVER founder Jun Takahashi had taken his seat, there it was. Set to David Bowie’s "Space Oddity," there were impeccably tailored overcoats, relaxed double-breasted suiting, and polished shirting. Pieces came in black, camel, and anthracite, carrying graphics of flying sorcerers, dystopian wastelands, Ludwig van Beethoven, and a collaborative VU logo. The fit was the work of Piccioli, the artwork that of Takahashi.
“I love Jun,” Piccioli told Highsnobiety after the show. “His line is connected to [street] culture and it’s important for brands to be open to new collaborations. It’s like an experiment.”
Two hours later, Takahashi showed the same outfits on his runway for UNDERCOVER, marking a unique value proposition for consumers, who will now be able to buy products by two designers in one item. The collaboration also extended across footwear, pouches, bags, and caps.
“I’m not going to say that streetwear is over, I don’t think so," Piccioli told us. "It’s about rethinking the values of sartorialism, but with a more streetwear approach. So less effort and more relaxed. That’s the only way for me.”
He could well have been referring to the coat in the first look, which merged the two approaches effortlessly and was inspired by a Herb Ritts photograph from a 1995 Valentino campaign depicting a man wearing a relaxed suit.
For Piccioli, key this season was the blurring of the lines between the exclusivity of luxury and the accessibility associated with mass consumer brands. It was about enhancing the tension between two opposites to find a contemporary emblem.
This ethos was most notably seen in Valentino’s footwear collaboration with Birkenstock. “With Birkenstock, it’s the most opposite universal sign of couture, and together they create something very contemporary,” the designer says. And what’s more sober than that?
Next, check out the other side of the Piccioli/Takahashi love-in at UNDERCOVER FW19.