More specifically, he wanted to look at the iconography of couture and rethink it for women of colour. How do different colours look on the skin? What should a dress be lined with? What do we mean by flesh-coloured clothing? “Imagine the most famous picture in couture, the one of all those Waspy women wearing dresses by the couturier, Charles James, shot by Cecil Beaton in 1948,” he explained of the famous Vogue image that epitomises the couture attitude of the traditional west. “And then imagine replacing all of those women with black faces.”
And so that’s what he did. Of the cast of around 60 models, 48 were non-white, and many names, Naomi Campbell excepted, were totally unknown. The looks, with their bold colours, regal silhouettes and effusive volumes, tripped through centuries of seamstress-ship and all sorts of style icons — Renaissance queens, Southern belles, Elizabeth Taylor’s muumuu years and dresses fit for fairytale princesses — but each was worn to tell a story about now.
“It’s not about the market,” said Piccioli of his intentions. “I just did it because I wanted to try and look at something differently.”
Statistically, a person of colour is less likely than ever to be a couture client. According to Forbes, black households in the US are projected to lose 18 per cent of their wealth by 2020, by which time the median white household will own 86 times more wealth than its black counterpart (and 68 times more wealth than its Latino one). But Piccioli insisted his decision was less about making a statement — “this isn’t political” — than exploring fashion from another point of view.
The truth is most of us will never wear couture. We can only appreciate it via the ideas it projects. And Piccioli’s was a good one. He had stuck to the codes of the ages to dress the spirit of the future. He had a dream, and it was absolutely ravishing.