While Giambattista Valli chose the gilded splendor of the Italian Embassy in Paris as his venue, his fourth collection was mostly sleek and sculptural.
The Rome-born, Paris-based designer opened his show with a minimalist evening coat with a wasp silhouette; the waist pinched, and the silk fabric — bearing an abstract lynx fur print — flaring over the hips.
This exit proved the main template for the lineup, built on long or short dresses either in smudged black-and-white animal prints or bearing light surface decoration. Curbing his penchant for hedgelike volumes and embroideries — notwithstanding coats and dresses paved in flowers, their petals composed of feathers — Valli showed off his more restrained side. A bustier dress, the animal print veiled with black tulle, was graphic and sexy.
While the modernist allure was at times reminiscent of the new-look Dior under Raf Simons, Valli knows his devotees expect a little pizzazz. And so with the likes of Salma Hayek, Lee Radziwill and Bianca Brandolini looking on, the clothes eventually blushed with pale color and accrued more riches. Short dresses in heavy curtain brocades sprouted swaying, Watteau backs; and flaring princess styles in multilayered tulle twinkled with a shower of tiny crystals.
The finale gowns, some in heavy silks and bearing long trains, finally displayed a semblance of their grand surroundings, encircled with sculptured corset belts echoing the botanical vines that crept over the ceiling.