The digital preamble to Valentino’s spring/summer 2021 show at Fonderia Macchi, a giant, industrial warehouse on the outskirts of Milan, comprised video footage of roses and tropical flowers bursting into bloom projected on the side of Italian buildings. This was a coming home of sorts: Pierpaolo Piccioli usually shows his Valentino womenswear collections in Paris, but this season he wanted to make a show of solidarity with his native Italy.

As he told British Vogue in an interview in the September issue: “I want to be more radical in every aspect of my job. Creativity has to be the leading force in a fashion house and that’s what it’s going to be. In the past, marketing and branding were more important than creativity. And I don’t think that’s right.” Here, five things to know about the Valentino spring/summer 2021 show.

The soundtrack was soothing, the space bucolic

As the livestream revved up on, the audience was informed that 1,200 species of flowers were represented in the arrangements that decorated the concrete warehouse space. Then, Timothy Lee McKenzie, best known by his stage name Labrinth, stepped up to a podium to give a uniquely soothing live performance to an audience of around 100, sat on socially distanced blocks.

The casting was full of eclectic personalities

The 18-year-old British model Alex Andrews made her catwalk debut opening the show. Scouted at Greenwich station, she’s a trained ballet dancer and punk music fan – a detail that appeared to be reflected in the heavy kohl that lined her eyes and the glossy black ’70s pageboy cut bestowed upon her by hairstylist Guido. With a line-up curated by frequent Valentino collaborator, the casting director Patrizia Pilotti, as well as London-based Madeleine Østlie of street-casting agency AAMØ Casting, the mood was eclectic, with well-known modelling names eschewed in favour of quirkier personalities. As Piccioli told Vogue: “Being different is a value. We are connected by emotions. Through a brand, you can create a community that shares those values.”

The Valentino woman is loosening up thanks to a collaboration with Levi’s

In amongst all the rainbow-hued maxi dresses, the delicate lace mini dresses, the fluoro shirting, the laser-cut appliqué jackets, were some surprises: a handful of pairs of five-pocket, vintage-wash jeans, for instance, paired with sheer chiffon blouses and, on one occasion, a long-line, plain white blazer. The result of a collaboration with Levi’s, they are an update on the 517 bootcut jean, with a roomy, mannish cut that contrasts neatly with ladylike shoes. On that note, sure, the Valentino woman still fancies some oomph – she’s pairing her khakis with silver sequins for 2021 – but even the eveningwear came with flat shoes, a surefire sign that Piccioli is feeling simplicity for spring.

The accessories had a practical energy

Apart from the odd pair of point-toe kitten-heels, every look was paired with flat, pointed, backless shoes, an update on the famous Rockstud flats beloved of everyone from Alexa Chung to Emma Stone and Jennifer Lopez. First introduced by Piccioli and his old collaborator Maria Grazia Chiuri (now departed and heading up Dior) back in spring/summer 2011, the Rockstud has become a superstar accessory for the brand, recognisable the world over. This season’s upgrade? The pointed toe is back, along with chunkier studs and double ankle straps. Similarly practical in theme were the raft of cross-body bags, also decorated with delicate gold studs.

The sheer maxi dress is confirmed as one of spring’s biggest trends

Sheer maxi dresses have billowed their way across screens repeatedly this season, with easy-chic styles at Victoria Beckham, Etro and Alberta Ferretti, but Valentino’s were some of the most stunning. Trimmed with ruffles and paired with retro high-waisted pants, they came in rainbow hues, and proved the definition of easy glamour.