PARIS — He has Victoria Beckham and Mischa Barton on speed dial, and his name has been bandied about as a contender for a recent round of coveted designer jobs, namely Halston, Valentino and Ferré.
But according to Giambattista Valli, he's focused firmly on his fast-growing signature brand. "Let's just say I'm not looking for any wedding soon," joked the designer during an interview at his atelier.
Indeed, his paper-strewn desk also sported two red high heels, a clue to the next step in extending his brand name, which includes a fur line, freshly signed with Ciwifurs SpA, that will debut with the designer's pre-fall collection next year.
Since launching his line with Italian licensee Gilmar in March 2005 after a long design career at Emanuel Ungaro, Valli has seen his distribution vault to 75 doors from 18. Sales in North America, his leading market, have grown by an average of 90 percent each season. A New York flagship is also in the works, possibly for next year.
In a sea of luxury behemoths, small independents and not much in between, Valli appears so far to have cracked one of fashion's enigmas: a creative free reign with commercial success.
"Giambattista has such a future," commented Julie Gilhart, senior vice president and fashion director of Barneys New York, who has been following the designer since his first collection. "He addresses a customer who loves classicism but wants to be sexy at the same time. His charm and trendy elegance are his DNA and that is a necessary element in creating the refined yet modern collection that he creates."
Registered as a French company, with external press and celebrity agents in Paris, Tokyo and New York, Valli has also been running the company himself, with a view to lassoing a chief executive officer in the near future.
"It's a small structure, but tightly interconnected," explained the designer, who shows his spring collection here Thursday. "Of course, I'm Italian, Roman even, even if I've decided to show in Paris. Right now, it's the most important place for me to be."
His fashion roost is a far cry from his conservative childhood in Rome, where he attended one of the city's Vatican schools. Amid snapshots of Queen Rania of Jordan, Barton and Penélope Cruz on his office mantelpiece sits a portrait of the Valli clan, taken with Pope John Paul I, when Valli was knee-high, in bright turquoise shorts.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"