Valentino’s Creative Director Is Departing

The fashion house Valentino announced on Friday that Pierpaolo Piccioli, its creative director, would be leaving after more than two decades at the brand and just weeks after unveiling a much heralded women’s wear collection during Paris Fashion Week.

Mr. Piccioli was instrumental in redefining Valentino for the era after the retirement of the brand’s founder, Valentino Garavani. Worn by celebrities like Frances McDormand and Florence Pugh, his work combined ease and elegance in an ineffably modern way.

“I’ve been in this company for 25 years, and for 25 years I’ve existed and I’ve lived with the people who have woven the weaves of this beautiful story that is mine and ours,” Mr. Piccioli, 56, said in a statement.

The news of his departure sent reverberations around the fashion industry. “I’m between stunned and stupefied,” Linda Fargo, the fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, wrote in an email.

Mr. Piccioli had been the sole creative director of Valentino since July 2016, when Maria Grazia Chiuri left to become creative director at Dior. The duo had run the design side of the house since 2008, a decade after joining the Rome-based company in 1999.

Though it had often been presumed by observers that the romance of their clothes came from Ms. Chiuri and the edge from Mr. Piccioli, when the pair separated, it became clear that he was, in fact, the more dreamy of the two.

His shows often seemed like immersions in a painterly netherworld of unexpected palettes and gorgeous lines, complete with ostrich feather hats that trembled like sea anemones with the breeze. He held couture extravaganzas on the Spanish Steps in Rome and at the Château de Chantilly near Paris.

In 2022, he devoted almost an entire ready-to-wear collection to a new hot pink — called “Pink PP” after his initials — that proved a hit with celebrities and an effective viral marketing tool. However, his most recent ready-to-wear collection was entirely black, a reflection of the dark times in which we are living, he said before the show.

“When you are aware of the darkness, you can look to the light,” Mr. Piccioli said. “But we have to face that, not escape it.”

Beloved of the atelier — he often brought the entire team out on the runway with him to take a bow after his couture shows — and an anomaly in a fashion world where founders often resent the designers who later lead their brands, Mr. Piccioli retained a close relationship with both Mr. Garavani and his co-founder, Giancarlo Giammetti, both of whom were often applauding from the front row of Mr. Piccioli’s shows.

“Thank you, PP, for these twenty years together and may your path continue with your head held high and with the success you deserve,” Mr. Giammetti wrote on Instagram.

However, Mr. Piccioli had in recent years begun to push back against the fashion system, which he felt prioritized merchandising and buzz over humanity and often paid lip service to inclusivity without actually following through.

“The money has won,” he told The New York Times before his January couture show. “Producers are stronger than musicians,” he said. “Galleries are stronger than painters. And big groups are stronger than designers.”

The news of Mr. Piccioli’s departure led to speculation around a series of shake-ups by its parent group. Valentino was acquired for around 700 million euros in 2012 by Mayhoola, an investment fund backed by the emir of Qatar that also owns the French fashion house Balmain, where both the chief executive and chief marketing officer have left in the last two weeks.

Last year, Mayhoola sold a 30 percent stake in Valentino for $1.87 billion to the luxury goods conglomerate Kering, owner of brands like Gucci and Saint Laurent. Kering retained an option to purchase the remaining shares by 2028, and Mayhoola said there could be more deals that would cement the alliance.

“A new creative organization for the Maison will be announced soon,” Valentino said in a statement.

“We extend our deepest gratitude to Pierpaolo for writing an important chapter in the history of the Maison Valentino,” Rachid Mohamed Rachid, the chief executive of Mayhoola and chairman of Valentino, said on Friday, after the news was published in Women’s Wear Daily.

Robert Burke, the founder of an eponymous luxury consultancy, said he expected Kering would move to acquire the rest of Valentino sooner than 2028. “They probably want something to compete with Dior,” he said. “Pierpaolo did an excellent job, but to really catapult it to the next level, they are probably looking at multiple changes.”

Mr. Piccioli’s exit was the second major departure by a top designer in the fashion world this week. On Tuesday, the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten said his men’s wear show in June would be his last after more than 40 years in the business. Like Mr. Piccioli, Mr. Van Noten was known for the generosity of his approach to design and business and his embrace of beauty.

As a result, wrote Ms. Fargo of Bergdorf Goodman, “one can’t help but be concerned about the talent pool of greats.”

No information was given as to what Mr. Piccioli might do next but, “his aesthetic is a very bankable take on fashion,” Mr. Burke said.

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