Dresses of fantastical colour and volume have become the hallmark of Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino, but for Spring/Summer 2020, the creative director exercised the art of “taking away” with an opening meditation on the humble white shirt. “I wanted to work on something universal, to get back to the essence of shape and volume,” he said. And so the show opened, set to the honeyed tune of Frank Ocean’s cover of “Moon River,” with twelve all-white looks built on “ordinary” pieces like the shirtdress, the Bermuda shorts, the pencil skirt, all rendered in cotton poplin and with couture-like artistry.

The purity of form was offset only by subtle glints of gold jewellery and shimmer-y makeup before compact bursts of fluorescent colour charged forth as single-tone dresses. Then came bold prints of the jungle variety, increasing in complexity with layers of sequins and embellishments, before the saturation paled once more, returning to the painting technique of grisaille. “It brings the attention from the dress per se to the personality that gives life to it, from the object to the individual” Piccioli mentioned in his show notes. The show closed with an all-white sheer polka-dot tulle gown, iced with meandering pleated ruffles of immaculate craftsmanship like a paper-thin sculpture. And then the audience was brought to their feet once more for a standing ovation as Minnie Ripperton’s “Lovin’ You” fluttered in the background.