This Italian-born, Paris-based designer was just upgraded by the Chambre Syndicale from guest member to a bona fide holder of the official haute couture appellation. It’s a rite of passage Giambattista Valli marked by shifting his show from the arcade near his headquarters to the gilded salons at the Crillon hotel — and by celebrating what he called “the art of the atelier.”
Rather than defining his collection by a particular era or theme, Valli said he wished to exalt the painstaking techniques that define high fashion. The opening looks — a cape, coat and dress, all in cream — were edged in 3-D embroidery meant to mimic “biscuit” style Sèvres porcelain. Most of what followed also had a distinct French accent, with nods to Christian Dior in the pinched waists, molded peplums and polka dots.
Except for a few luncheon suits with abbreviated jackets, Valli lavished most of his attention on cocktail and evening looks. Enter the embroidered lace, dense rows of jet beads and ribbons of tiny sequins fanning out like sunrays over diaphanous gowns. As the show progressed to grand evening, a floral theme blossomed with hydrangea colors and outsize orchid prints on bulbous gowns with panniers. But the most impactful looks were often the simplest: a sculpted, sleeveless evening jacket with a pencil skirt; a feather-light, long-sleeve gown with a sequined bodice and a sheer skirt banded in ribbons.
Valli already boasts a client list stretching from Olivia Palermo to Lee Radziwill, and he’s happy to see the couture ranks expanding thanks to fast-growing China, South America and the Middle East. “There’s a new generation of customers, young and very attentive to a new kind of luxury,” he said, flashing a big smile.