So, you probably can already tell, I'm a Valentino die hard fan girl. While Valentino has come under intense fire from critics, claiming that the designs are culturally appropriated and ignorant, designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli were intending to send a message of cultural tolerance and ‘the beauty that comes out of cross-cultural expression’.
Tens of thousands of refugees from numerous African countries make the harrowing journey across the Mediterranean to southern Italy (many die in the appalling circumstances before they even reach the shore), and often, when they arrive, they are ill-received. Such circumstances is also exemplified in the current Syrian crisis, particularly in Germany, where there has been backlash against the hundreds of thousands of Syrian arrivals from some quarters.
In response to the current refugee crisis, these designs intend for us to understand that each and every person is an individual, and that we should understand their cultures, rather than shut them out. This understanding and inclusion is seen through the designs, particularly through the fusion of Italian and African traditions - the strips of gladiator-studded leather, the Roman sandals, the deep earthy tones, the white ceramic teeth or shell necklaces, the intricate embroidery (in which Valentino have superior expertise), the tiny beaded Masai-derived patterns and bold fringing trims. And yes, people can be completely pissed off about Valentino's "Africa-inspired" show, particularly due to fact that the majority of models were white and sporting cornrows; however, their show reflects a larger problem in the fashion industry - a lack of diversity on the runways and, also, the belief one can commodify cultural elements without consequences. Hopefully, this makes room for discussion and allows for improvement in the industry. Despite all of this, you cannot deny that the designs aren't breathtakingly beautiful.