Art meets Maison Valentino’s iconic accessories in its latest campaign rendered by five emerging artists



Luxury & Brands

Text by Avani Thakkar

Contrary to popular opinion, fashion seldom exists in a bubble. It may take a magnifying glass (and a broad-minded outlook) to zoom in on its complex interconnection with economics, politics, climate change and even food – but that tie-in exists and always will. The realm of fine arts is no stranger to this alliance either; there are countless runway examples to prove it – Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night” envisioned on an off-shoulder midi-dress; shoulder bags and other accessories emblazoned with the “Mona Lisa” image; and a vibrant 1991 Spring collection that paid sartorial homage to Andy Warhol’s pop art….

But if you take a moment to cast your attention on the contemporary international art scene, the Monets, da Vincis and Picassos of the 21st century have a lot more than just brushes and paint at their disposal – think advanced 3D animation programmes, Photoshop and digital drawing apps such as Procreate – making ample room for all sorts of mind-boggling experimentation that the humble canvas doesn’t permit. The latest rage among young artists and digital creators? Non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Existing on a blockchain, these are similar to cryptocurrency but possess exclusivity owing to unique identifying codes.

According to an article in Forbes Advisor, “NFTs are like physical collector’s items, only digital. So instead of getting an actual oil painting to hang on the wall, the buyer gets a digital file instead.” Moreover, they receive royalties and are entitled to a percentage of the sales each time their art is passed on to a new owner. If all this tech talk is not up your alley, know that you’re not alone. There’s already a billion modern developments to wrap our heads around, including the perplexing fact that a virtual Gucci handbag was sold for more money than the actual one on Roblox, a global gaming platform – making our day-to-day lives seem eerily similar to a Black Mirror episode.

However, as evidenced by the activities that most people resorted to during pandemic-induced lockdowns or curfews, few digital pursuits can compare to the joy of dipping a brush into a dollop of crimson gouache or getting lost in the intricate strokes of a painting made on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Perhaps this is exactly what went through creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli’s mind when brainstorming the concept for Valentino’s Collezione Milano campaign. Managing affairs solo at the Italian couture house since 2016, Piccioli entrusted five painters, hailing from different corners of the world, to re-envision any Valentino Garavani accessory through their distinctive lenses. It’s refreshing to see the torch passed on to ethnically diverse and emerging personalities by a notable luxury house as they, in effect, re-imagine the historically established white male figure of the “artist”. The end product? A breath of IRL air in an URL-dominated world, evoking nostalgia and appreciation for a traditional art form that each one of us has engaged with in some way.

When approached by the maison for this project, Alexis Ralaivao, from France, zeroed in on the subject of his painting right away – the Valentino Garavani Roman Stud Top Handle in a pink tint. Titled as “La Clef”, it’s flooded with warm tones and highlights the bag’s classic golden studs and quilted detailing in a picturesque manner. Depicted as rummaging through its contents with one hand, is a woman in a white slip dress, adding a human touch (quite literally) to an otherwise one-dimensional scenario. “….I like the fact that it is full of mystery. You can easily make your own assumptions about what is happening here. Where is she, what is she reaching for in her bag, where does that path go?” says Ralaivao.

Image courtesy: Laurent Grivet

Iori Nagashima, from Japan, also chose to showcase a mysterious woman in his painting, but in an entirely different setting – a rainy, dark night. Holding an umbrella in one hand and an ivory Garavani Roman Stud Crochet bag in another, the auburn-haired woman is clad head-to-toe in a black outfit, allowing her to blend into what is assumed to be a cityscape. The spotlight is undoubtedly on the accessory, which radiates off the canvas in all its embellished glory.

Image courtesy: Naoto Kobayashi

“Untitled, 2021” is the name Chinese painter Zhang Zihao lends to his artwork – a vivid, monochrome diptych starring a pair of the Italian luxury house’s Crochet Sneakers. Asserting the visual prowess of red and black as complementary colours, Zihao renders a discreet duo sporting this particular Valentino footwear, which is designed with woven fabric and a white rubber sole. “Vitality is a flow, don’t force it, and the rest will fall into place,” noted the Shanghai-based artist when asked to describe the essence of his project.

Image courtesy: Hogan

Louise Giovanelli, a UK-based painter known for translating the finest of textures and patterns through deft brushstrokes, opted to illustrate her vision for this campaign by zooming in on a jet-black Valentino bag’s sculptural silhouette and plush fabric. The metal hardware offsets the single pigmented layer “suggesting something classical, ornamental and fetishistic”, explains the young artist. From marking indentation lines to making sure an ethereal glow hits at just the right spots, Giovanelli rightfully highlights the skillful craftsmanship behind the construction of one of the brand’s most beloved handbags.

Image courtesy: Michael Pollard

Last but by no means the least, prepare to immerse yourselves in the fairy-tale-like atmosphere conjured by South Korean artist Nahum Kim. Taking on the role of stars decorating the night sky are the Valentino bag’s twinkling gold studs, doing justice to the artwork’s apt title, “Roman Stud Space”. Absorbing the beauty of this unconventional panorama is a casually dressed girl sitting on a swing with a cross-body Roman Stud Top Handle bag that is rather poetically suspended amid this celestial scene. Inspired by elements of nature, Kim ponders over the emotions that played a role in his painting process: “What I particularly like the most about living here is that I can always look at the stars at night. Looking at the stars makes me imagine the mystical universe and its infinite possibilities.”

Well, wouldn’t we all like to be teleported into this illusory land from time to time, but only if a Valentino handbag comes along for the ride!


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