SAN FRANCISCO — When designer Giambattista Valli received news of being named to France’s elite Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, his iPhone took the call. He was asleep in the City by the Bay, still adjusting to California time and resting up from two days of preparing for a Saks Fifth Avenue fashion show at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill for the ladies of the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary.
“It is really the work of the atelier that’s incredible,” said Valli, demurring to the artisans who give his designs form.
Although honored to join the elite cadre of French couturiers practicing their time-honored craft, Valli didn’t linger on the news. He was too busy polishing the lineup of his fall runway looks, coaching models to walk with an attitude and documenting it all on his cell phone’s camera while simultaneously uploading images to his Web site.
An inveterate shutterbug, Valli shot with a Leica the cover photo for the night’s fashion program — a grand strapless red wool and tulle gown, part of the runway finale of a collection inspired by Flemish portraiture.
“The two things I can’t live without are art and photos,” said Valli, whose Web postings are a cornerstone of publicity for his close-knit design business selling in 245 stores in 41 countries. “I’m not part of a financial group that spends a lot on ad campaigns.
“I work hard. I’m tough,” he continued. His trips to the U.S. are infrequent, and on his first trip to San Francisco, he stopped in at SFMOMA and wandered through the hip Mission District, where he fit right in with his olive A.P.C. nylon and corduroy hoodie, black Levi’s straight legs and worn black leather ankle boots.
Valli said his commitment to haute couture and its cultural importance is part of his “working for the new generation” of designers by showing its attainability for individuals. Consequently, his first collection for the upcoming season to be shown as a member of the Chambre Syndicale will reference the earlier masters. “The inspiration is the big French houses that used to be,” said Valli, naming Yves Saint Laurent, among others. “It is a knowledge I want to give back.”