Pierpaolo Piccioli has defended his decision to include a provocative image of a male model in Valentino's latest campaign.
Over the weekend, executives at the Italian luxury fashion label released a series of photographs taken to promote the brand-new Valentino Collezione Milano collection, with the imagery featuring a diverse range of faces including Jess Hu and Mia O'Neal.
However, an image of photographer Michael Bailey-Gates depicting him mostly nude and balancing a Valentino handbag on his foot quickly garnered a mixed response, with many fans praising the bold composition and others posting very negative comments.
In response to the controversy, Piccioli uploaded the image to his personal Instagram page on Sunday and shared an impassioned message in the accompanying caption.
"After we posted this picture on Maison Valentino a lot of people reacted with hateful and aggressive comments. My job is to deliver my vision of beauty according to the time we are living and beauty and whom we consider beautiful, is a reflection of our own values," he wrote. "We are witnessing a big, huge shift in humankind, the movements of self-awareness are all leaded (sic) by the same idea: evolution is possible if equality is possible, if inclusivity is possible, if human rights are defended and freedom of expression is protected and nurtured."
Piccioli went on to insist that neither himself nor members of his team would tolerate any form of violence, hate, discrimination, or racism, and that he would continue to use his position to advocate for change in the fashion industry.
"This picture is a self-portrait of young beautiful man and evil is in the eye of the beholder, not in his naked body," the 54-year-old added. "Change is possible, no one ever said that it would be easy but I am ready to face difficulties, in the name of freedom, love, tolerance, and growth."
Accordingly, Piccioli's friends were quick to praise his stance, with the likes of Derek Blasberg, Olivia Palermo, Luke Evans, and Rafferty Law all posting positive messages in the comments section.