For the second time, Valentino has gathered a stable of world-renowned authors & artists to concoct text-only artworks for its ongoing Narratives project.
Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli again assembled an all-star cast of creatives for Narratives II, bringing in Brit Bennett, David Sedaris, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Michael Cunningham, Mieko Kawakami, and Emily Ratajkowski.
These 17 writers created colorful artworks using nothing but text, each taking a unique approach to illuminating a not-so-simple theme: Love.
All of the works have been tacked up around the world, with a special emphasis on poster placement at independent bookstores.
27th Letter Books in Detroit, Greedy Reads in Baltimore, Magic City in Tulsa, and Cafe con Libros in Brooklyn are but a few of the local booksellers spotlighting the Valentino Narratives campaign on their store windows, a visual invitation for guests to come in and peruse the stacks.
But what is love, really? Highsnobiety spoke with three participating Valentino Narratives authors — Leila Slimani, Melissa Broder, and Douglas Coupland, creator of Valentino's "Pink PP" — to dig deeper.
What does this partnership with Valentino mean to you?
Leila Slimani: It's very moving for me because it's a partnership from the heart, we chose each other like lovers or friends. I really liked the idea that a brand like Valentino would choose words rather than images.
Words, poetry, tend to disappear in our society. Giving them a place again is also thinking about emotion in a different way, it's protecting the mystery. And without mystery, there is no beauty.
Melissa Broder: I hadn't written a poem in years. My work has mostly been prose since 2016. But this poem just came on an airplane, inspired by the passing of my father, and I don't know that I would have set pen to paper in that moment in that way had it not been for the impetus of the assignment and its constraints and inspiration.
Douglas Coupland: It means a lot, as it’s a crossover over between visual and verbal cultures, and it’s also about color which, looking at my visual work over the past two decades, is obviously very important to me. I also like that [Piccioli] is creating collections that are distinctly of the twenty-first century, yet feel like part of a centuries-long lineage.
What's your personal relationship with Valentino?
Slimani: It is a very rare fashion house whose history has always fascinated me. For me it is synonymous with elegance and charisma.
Broder: I do a lot of coveting.
Coupland: Well, I look in my dressing room and I have one Valentino garment, a pink polo shirt which fits beautifully. I’d love to wear everything Valentino but I don’t go to many opera opening nights where I live.
I think the true measure of my relationship is the awe and sense of overwhelming beauty I experienced when I watched the Pink collection runway show — the perfection of color and fit and craftsmanship and the commanding silhouettes. Thank you, Italy.
And I love [Piccioli]’s proposition about color as a way of both escaping from the real world while also locating a deeper meaning within it. Imagine declaring a pink manifesto in an American production meeting. [Insert lead balloon here.]
How'd you approach the theme of "Love?" Was it intimidating to encompass one, ultra-meaningful word?
Slimani: There is nothing more difficult for a writer than to write about a theme like love, which the greatest geniuses have all written about. What more can be said about love? But I decided not to be intimidated and to write from the heart. After all, we all have something to say about love!
Broder: Love is my fertile territory (along with death). So, it was perfect.
Coupland: I wrote a few pieces specifically for this project, but the piece I went with was the first one, which has a rawness and bluntness to it. A sense of longing. I hope that came through.
Any specific indie bookstores you'd like to shout out?
Slimani: I love love love Shakespeare and Company in Paris: Sylvia, the owner, is a marvellous woman.
Broder: Small World Books on the Venice boardwalk!
Coupland: The best bookstore on Earth is the Daikanyama T-Site in Shibuya, Tokyo. It’s probably also the best store on Earth, period. It’s indie but massive yet it feels relentlessly intimate. There’s new and vintage and you browse with cocktails and the furniture is Corbusier. It’s what you thought being an adult was supposed to be like. You want to live there.
In terms of a classical indie store, TYPE Books in Toronto is small yet always manages to have one of everything you might want to find — which has gotten very hard for independent stores to do.