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Valentino brings luxury to literature with independent bookstores

Actor Emma Roberts is cofounder of Belletrist, a book club partnering with Valentino to spotlight independent bookstores. Image courtesy of Valentino


Italian fashion label Valentino is getting bookish in the newest chapter of its Valentino Collezione Milano campaign.

"The Narratives" installment has been crafted with the literary community in mind, as the maison partners with actor Emma Roberts’s book club, Belletrist, in releasing its first text-only ad campaign. Valentino has given nine authors the opportunity to craft their own stories, all text-only and mentioning the brand, that nine bookstores across the United States will then put on display in their front windows, ultimately celebrating the house, literature and book lovers abound.

"The Valentino campaign resonates so strongly because it flouts, in an almost whimsical way, all the digital tropes of fashion campaigns," said Alex Sturtevant, director of brand at Stink Studios, New York. "When other brands are creating digital versions of products to appear in VR games, the simplicity of the written word, on paper, at a local brick and mortar bookstore, is a breath of fresh air.

"Will this campaign increase sales of Valentino? Probably not. Will it cement the connection between the brand and the arts in a new and curious way? Almost definitely," he said.

The Narratives
Together, Valentino and Belletrist have identified nine indie bookstores across the U.S. to display the written stories in their front windows. The campaign debuted on April 21, ahead of Independent Bookstore Day on April 24.

Through April 28, consumers can visit any of the participating bookstores to see the text-only posters and take home a personal-sized one themselves, along with a special ValentinoxBelletrist tote bag.

The participating bookstores include For Keeps Books in Atlanta, GA; The Lit Bar in the Bronx, NY; Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, NY; Semicolon in Chicago, IL; Book Soup in Los Angeles, CA; Sweet Pickle Books in Manhattan, NY; Baldwin and Company in New Orleans, LA; Loyalty Bookstores in Washington D.C., The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, NY.

There is an out-of-home component to the Narratives campaign. Image courtesy of Valentino

The stories have been crafted by esteemed writers including Donna Tartt, Elif Shafak, Janet Mock, Lisa Taddeo, Matthew Lopez, Ocean Vuong, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Fatima Farheen Mirza and Raven Leilani. The Narratives was originally inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Donna Tartt’s reference of Valentino in her book, The Goldfinch.

Each authored piece is vastly different, but each mellifluous piece mentions Valentino by name.

“Everything my mother did was graceful,” Ms. Taddeo writes in her story. “Even the way she got cancer was graceful.

“In the hayfields of Premilcuore they dressed a Straw witch in old clothes and burned her in effigy, La Vecchia,” she writes. “The first time l accompanied my mother to the festival, years after she'd left for America, I was eight and she wore an otherworldly Valentino, sheer lace with velveteen flowers.”

The stories also reflect each author’s own style and philosophies.

“The feminine isn't only sacred, it's utterly necessary,” Ms. Mock writes. “The feminine is armor especially for women and femmes navigating unsafe spaces.

“When I wear what I want, draping my body in a Valentino gown paired with V-logo combat boots, I am power-filled,” she says.

The Lit Bar is one of the participating bookstores

“Valentino Collezione Milano: The Narratives” is the house’s first campaign to completely eliminate imagery and spotlight the written word. The partnership gives Valentino the opportunity to work directly with independent bookstores, helping spotlight their work and attracting more book- and fashion-loving consumers.

Through the campaign, the Italian fashion label will also be donating a fee to each bookstore to support their work.

Literary luxury
The overlap between luxury brands and a love for literature is longstanding. From accessory to travel brands, labels are appealing to consumers’ love for books.

Bespoke travel company Black Tomato is bringing timeless tales to life in a new travel package offering affluent families the ultimate immersive experience.

After identifying timeless stories beloved by children and adults alike, Black Tomato has introduced unique fairytale-inspired family vacations. The Take me on a Story program will provide families itineraries, lodging and activities based on popular children’s books (see story).

The Narratives is also just the latest show of Valentino’s support of the creative writing community, as the label has spearheaded several initiatives and campaigns supporting writers.

Earlier this year, Valentino supported emerging writers through a new scholarship program in partnership with author Tomi Adeyemi. The brand sponsored 50 students participating in Ms. Adeyemi’s The Writer’s Roadmap workshop, another effort by Valentino championing arts and culture (see story).

"This strategy is an extension of visually as well as contextually storytelling through past historical events as well as fictional attributes that are part of the ethos of Valentino," said Dalia Strum, founder of Rethink Connect and professor at The Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. "We've seen it once and again as brands provide their inspiration behind collections along with their documented journey, which ultimately should encourage us as consumers to desire the stronger connection to their literary inspiration."