Valentino SS16: An Integration of Cultural Change

Glamour. Sophistication. Italian. Sexy. Red.

All of these powerful words evoke an equally influential image. A brand composed of an obsession over the female form and an appreciation of curves. Valentino Garavani is a man who encompasses class, confidence and sophistication. As a designer, he made incredible patterns that showcased a woman’s shape in an ideal and flattering manner. As a Vogue editor once said, “Valentino was the first to do clothes that really enhanced a woman and moved with her” (Beyfus). With current head designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli using their past accessory design to its best use, the Spring/Summer 2016 runway show incorporated the creative heads best attributes with Valentino Garavani’s. Both Chiuri and Piccioli have maintained Valentino’s heritage through their continued focus on the womanly figure. They utilize shapes that highlight the beauty of the female form- a feature crucial to the Valentino brand.


Traditional Byzantine Tapestry circa 4th Century Egypt



Valentino SS16- This image shows Byzantine references in its stripes or ‘clavi’

When flipping through the Valentino SS16 runway images; I became entranced by a overall feeling of power. Beginning with an almost Greco-Roman gladiator mood, Valentino quickly diffused this look into an African flatland; blending these two vastly different cultures into one dominant and compelling look. Taking cues from African cultures we see braided hair, terra-cotta jewelry and feathered influences. Muted elephant and tiger prints are reminiscent of historic tribal paintings. The models exude power with an intermixing of an almost pagan Byzantine spiritual protection through the use of animals on textile (Ryder).



Valentino SS16 showcasing an intermixing of traditional African pieces such as feathered and layered neckwear with bold pattern work.

maasai woman

A traditional Maasai woman showing layered necklaces, bold prints and patterns.

With so much going on in the world politically, its no wonder that fashion houses such as Valentino have picked up on that global focus. Africa has been in the spot light recently for the Ebola outbreak; shedding a negative light on a country full of culture, ideology and tradition. The creative heads of Valentino managed to showcase certain positive and beautiful aspects of African culture throughout their collection; contrasting an otherwise unfavorable depiction.


A close-up from the Valentino SS16 show that depicts an interesting compilation of influences; from Byzantine tapestry art to Maasai culture.


Traditional tribal masks shown on a Valentino SS16 handbag


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The above three images are from the Valentino SS16 runway. Leather showcases power while the detailed lace work shows femininity. Sheer fabrics allow viewers to see the full female form.

Valentino’s focus on the female form showcased in this collection through sheer pieces. The feminist movement has become a primary focus again in most societies throughout the past year. Many articles relating to Planned Parenthood and a women’s right to dictate what happens with her body continue to dominate papers and online communities. By putting breasts on show, the brand has made a statement stating that a females body is nothing to hide. By combining that mentality with the juxtaposition of fabric choice (lace to leather) the brand symbolically states that the woman wearing these pieces is mighty and can make her own decisions.

HEMPSTEAD, NY - OCTOBER 16: Women protest for continued funding of Planned Parenthood outside Hofstra University prior to the second presidential debate on October 16, 2012 in Hempstead, New York. U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will debate in a town hall style meeting this evening at the university. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

An image form Planned Parenthood protesting a women’s right to choose what happens to her body

To me, this collection becomes a very cultural standing point, encompassing history and modernity within its boundaries. The gowns all appear tactile, gaining the attention of onlookers as we want to touch, to feel and to experience this collection. We see a continued fascination with leather; drawing in the still evident and ever-popular 50 Shades of Grey fans. This collection tames the dominatrix and brings out her inner delicateness to evoke a contradiction of sorts, while maintaining the ever-important appreciation of the female form.




Beyfus, Drusilla. (2015). Valentino Garavani. London: Quadrille. (Accessed 18th October 2015). (Accessed 18th October 2015). (Accessed 18th October 2015).
Ryder, E. (n.d.). Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Retrieved October 15, 2015, from
WGSN. (2015, October 6). Retrieved October 15, 2015, from

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