Giambattista Valli has exploded on the Haute Couture scene two days ago in Paris by understanding the social lives of his aristocratic clients. This week the couture seemed to be holding its own version of Le Grand Tour de France. Designers look at the world around them and put it through the meat grinder of their imagination. This season, the Italian designer Giambattista Valli went boldly graphic and floral while riffing on the 1950’s, an era that continues to fascinate architectural, fashion and industrial designers.
Haute Couture is where oil magnates turn for wedding gear. Designers tried all manner of new approaches to one area of fashion that has hardly changed since 1890. Still, scattered among the distractions this week in rainy, chilly Paris were shows displaying the incredible power of sequins and satin when deployed for a clientele without money worries. A few trends were put forward as well: The 50’s remain chic.
The wedding gown (which traditionally closes an Haute Couture show) got an update with color and new materials such as neoprene. At Schiaparelli, Marco Zanini offered a knee-length gown with a huge bustle and train, printed with gray pigeons in flight. Chanel‘s queenly neoprene gown was worn by a fully pregnant bride. Giambattista Valli‘s closing look was a voluminous dégradé silk tulle skirt that morphed from white into brilliant yellow—paired with a white silk taffeta pajama top.
The message: It’s your wedding, so wear what you want!
I adore the Giambattista Valli Haute Couture collection for Fall 2014 -the “new Couture customer”, and I wanted to show you some pictures with the most beautiful gown dresses he created this season. But let’s see who is Giambattista Valli first.
Giambattista Valli’s career began in his native city when—after completing studies there and in London—he landed a job with the Italian master Roberto Capucci. Stints at Fendi and Krizia followed. Then, in 1997, he moved to Paris to work for Emanuel Ungaro, eventually becoming his hand-picked successor. These interests carried over into his own line, launched in 2005. Before its debut, Giambattista Valli said that his aim was to create a style based on line and silhouette (as opposed to the decoration he had focused on as creative director at Emanuel Ungaro). “I want,” he declared, “a woman to feel the cut of the scissors in the clothes.”
The scissor-cut lines Giambattista Valli has since favored include the cocoon (a shape especially well suited to his sideline work for Moncler Gamme Rouge) and a structured New Look silhouette that harks back to the glamour sirens of the Cinecittà in its heyday, and to the postwar portraits of Irving Penn. “I love pieces when you don’t know whether they are from the past, the future, or right now,” Giambattista Valli has said.
By 2010, Giambattista Valli was becoming the Valentino of his generation. Not in scale—who could compete with the Last Emperor for lavish living?—but in the way the two Italians share a penchant for the jet set, as well as a mutual appreciation for the moneyed and titled women who populate it. If Valli’s personal style tends toward the high-low mix his women wear is a rocket ride into the stratosphere of chic. As the Vogue writer Plum Sykes commented, his evening dresses “are the closest to couture” that ready-to-wear could possibly produce.
Giambattista Valli went this year on a jaunt back in time to the Riviera of the mid-20th century, when Hollywood starlets swanned through the social playgrounds and lounged by the pool of Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc in Cannes. So black and white men’s pajama stripes appeared in silk, neatly hugging the body only to burst into bloom at the waist; crisp white shirt dresses exploded in crinoline skirts; sheer wisteria-spotted sheaths topped big-bottomed maillots; and silk pajama shirting piped in contrasting lines slouched elegantly over floor-sweeping skirts in acres of pastel feathered tulle.
The Haute Couture show opened with dresses that suggested the Giambattista Valli girl had tumbled lazily out of bed or pool, and shrugged on her partner’s pajamas or stripey cotton shirt, and wrapped a towel or two carelessly around her, evoking the look of a beauty in an Asian painting.
“The secret of my girls is that they’re always eccentric,” he said before his Haute Couture show in Paris this week. “They don’t play it. They are.” So you could say that there was eccentricity in a skirt in pink lace laid over a striped body. But the strength of this lineup was that Giambattista Valli didn’t, actually cater to that waywardness. Skirts were pencil thin and below the knee, and right away that gave the collection a long, elegant, grown-up line. They were paired with crop tops, tanks or a capelet situation that Giambattista Valli liked. In the case of the full-skirted frenzy of the finale, he used tiny piped pajama tops as a counterpoint.
It was all as light as a gentle sirocco blowing in from the Aegean to take the sultry heat off the day—but as he says, his clients don’t need to wrap up against the cold, and if they do, he proposes they shrug a 1920’s monkey-fur rug over their pajama’d shoulders and wear it like a high drama cape.
Amongst all those enchanting ballet-length flowering dresses and full-blown ball gowns, GiambattistaValli also sent out some subtle crepe dresses in bone white or charcoal black that shows he knows his way around a flou atelier. The drop-dead black crepe dress worn under that “monkey” cape was so good that Giambattista Valli showed two versions of it so you could see the pyramid cutout in back.
That’s modern couture chic!