Haute couture dresses typically take hundreds of hours to make and flash by on the catwalk in less than 10 seconds. This season, Giambattista Valli decided to skip the runway to give guests a closer look at his made-to-measure creations by showing them on mannequins instead.
Some 30 dresses went on display for three hours only at the Shangri-La hotel in Paris, in a museum-quality display of craftsmanship. One of Valli’s signature tulle ruffle explosions typically requires 300 hours of manual work — imagine the dresses that opened the exhibition, which looked like they had been covered in fresh blooms.
Clusters of peony petals sprouted from a pink silk taffeta column dress, while a white cocktail dress with a graphic off-the-shoulder neckline featured a garden’s worth of floral embroideries: orange blossoms, dahlias and roses.
Valli said he wanted to shine the spotlight on “the surgical precision of the haute couture ateliers, because we are really taking a risk, in the sense that it has to be perfect. You’re not seeing these dresses in movement, from a distance or in a showroom.”
He’d been mulling the idea for a while, and felt the time was right since it was the opposite of his collaboration with Swedish fast-fashion giant H&M. “They balance each other out,” Valli said. “It’s really a luxury to take the time to do things.”
Cape backs, sweeping trains and acres of frothy tulle underlined his signature plays with volume. At such close quarters, it was hard to look but not touch the frilled ballgowns in candied almond shades.
Fans of the brand will be able to snap up streamlined versions at high-street prices when Valli’s full collection for H&M launches in November. The designer said he was surprised by the response to the limited-edition capsule released during the Cannes Film Festival in May.
“It’s extraordinary and unexpected. I never thought Giambattista Valli was so widely known and such an object of desire. In fact, we reached 600 million people through social media,” he reported. “It was a beautiful conversation.”