The fun thing about fashion is that it can transform us into completely different people—like a villain or a Teletubby, or someone in the throes of a full-blown breakdown muttering questions like “Why are we here” and “What does it all even mean?!” I’ve been a villain at points in my life and in many ways, a Teletubby too—but never have I ever observed an item of clothing and felt my brain immediately plummet into the depths of panic the way it did when I beheld this Valentino blazer.
Milan Men’s Fashion Week wrapped up on Monday, and the standout of the shows—at least for me—was this singular, basic black blazer emblazoned with the quote (warning? threat? prophecy?): “We are so old, we have become young again.” In a week overflowing with anxiety-inducing nightmares, it turned out to be this one item of clothing that has consumed my thoughts, haunted my dreams, and sent me spiraling into an existential crisis.
Hanya Yanagihara’s fans might immediately recognize the quote from A Little Life—a book I’ve yet to read, largely due to the fact that my friends who have read it always tell me things like it “destroyed them,” they have “never been the same,” and they “kind of regret reading it.” But Pierpaolo Piccioli, the creative director of Valentino, had a slightly less metaphysical idea behind the brand’s first menswear show since 2020: “Hanya’s novel has a lot to do with this collection,” he wrote on Instagram. (Guests were invited with a copy of the book!) “The striking force of vulnerability and the fierceness of emotions that frame this young men life is something that moved me and pushed me to reflect on how work must still be done to overcome cliches and gender stereotypes,” he continued.
Using literature in fashion to challenge outdated and toxic forms of masculinity? Hard support! Piccioli also emblazed a shirt, bag, and a pair of jeans with another passage from A Little Life. But the particular phrase, “We are so old we have become young again,” was only written on one item—without further explanation. “Showing emotion used to be kind of forbidden for powerful men,” Piccioli told GQ. “I think that you can be powerful by wearing tailoring with a skirt, with shorts, and with flowers.”
Still, what the fuck does this have to do with being so old you’re....young again?!
“A friend of mine asked me what time means to me,” Piccioli wrote in a different Instagram post, in response to the young/old quote. “Time allows me to look at things with new eyes, encourages me to feel the uncomfortable but magnetic feeling of uncertainty, forces me out of my comfort zone and gift me back with the awe of revelation. Pablo Picasso took his entire life to paint as a child. I want to keep the enchant and the eyes I had when I was dreaming to make this job and to have the opportunity to do what we did two days ago. Young again.”
OK. I don’t feel young right now but I also don’t not not feel young, you know? So, maybe I haven’t learned enough? Maybe I have a lot more to go through before I feel young again? Is youth simply a synonym for imagination? Is imagination just a process of remembering what it was like to see the world as children? Can you only return to your 5-year-old sense of wonder once you’ve had all your hopes and dreams beaten out of you by life? Is it wise to be stupid, or only stupid to think you’re wise? Have I done anything worthwhile with the time I’ve already taken up, or is the whole point of this existence merely to find our way back to the wild and boundless version of our younger selves?
“This is a manifesto of life,” Piccioli concluded.
Great, thanks. Enjoy your weekend. I’ll be spending mine finger painting on acid.