British Vogue - 11.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

an you get a conversation started with a
fragrance? That was the mission of Pierpaolo
Piccioli, creative director at Valentino, for the
launch of Born in Roma, his first scent at the
house. And at Valentino’s Paris headquarters, watching
him chat to model and former refugee Adut Akech – his
muse and face of the perfume’s campaign – it certainly
seems that several conversations have already begun.
Firm friends since they met three years ago, Akech is
still wearing the eye-wateringly beautiful purple silk gown
that she wore to close Piccioli’s autumn ’19 couture show,
only hours before our private audience. As they fire off
questions and answers, their mutual admiration is obvious.
“It’s very clear to me that my job is to create a vision
of beauty for the moment we live in,” says the softly
spoken Piccioli, who chose models of different ages – such
as Cecilia Chancellor, 53, and Lauren Hutton, 75 – for
the show, and whose cast for spring ’19 featured
mostly black women. “To me, that’s about diversity,
and I can do this through the choices I make in
my job, like choosing Adut for this fragrance.”
He smiles at Akech: “You have to be super-
proud because you’re delivering an image
that allows people to understand, and
sometimes to not even have to ask, why
a black woman can represent a brand.
Because now you’re here, and it’s done,
and we’ve done it.”
The juice for Born in Roma was created
by master perfumers Amandine Marie
and Honorine Blanc. The scent marries
three varieties of jasmine, vanilla bourbon
and an earthy note of pink pepper for a
floral oriental fragrance with a distinct


Pierpaolo Piccioli’s first scent for Valentino captures the spirit
of Italy’s storied capital, says Kathleen Baird-Murray

edge, and in doing so brings a spirit of inclusivity to the
exclusive world of couture. With the bottle paying tribute
to the house’s cult Rockstud collection, it’s a punky
interpretation of high fashion inspired by Piccioli’s home
city, and the seat of the house itself: Rome. Valentino
was founded there in 1960, with the capital’s carnal,
passionate energy making it far more than just a backdrop
for the brand. “It’s the place I know well,” says Piccioli.
“Rome is a city where many layers live together, where
you have baroque angels but also the work of the film
director Pier Paolo Pasolini. Centuries ago, it was a city
of powerful families struggling against one another, of
battles between Church and State. Now it’s more about
standing up for rights and values. I loved the idea of
having a very Roman brand represented by Adut. Because
to me, being Roman doesn’t mean ‘nationalism’, it means
being open to all different kinds of cultures.”
Akech recalls first meeting Piccioli outside his
office. “I chatted to you for 15 minutes, and
I thought, ‘Oh, he’s just a normal person.’ It was
only later they told me you were the designer.
I was like, ‘What?’ And that’s our relationship.
Like father and daughter.”
“Fashion father and daughter,” echoes
Piccioli, with a smile.
“When we work, it doesn’t feel like
work. I get to do this not just for myself,”
says Akech, “but for all the faceless little
girls and boys who haven’t been seen or
heard; and who have big dreams of
doing something with their lives but
might not have had the opportunity to
do it.” She beams and the room lights
up. “It feels like making history.” n

Valentino Born in Roma
Donna eau de parfum, from £55





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