For a guy who loves a wild garden, Giambattista Valli took to confinement better than might be expected. For the designer, the enforced captivity was an opportunity to step off the work treadmill and smell the roses — literally, since he is fortunate to have an apartment in Paris with a balcony full of fragrant flowers.
“It was a lovely emergency exit — like an oxygen hatch,” he recalled. “It helped.”
With unaccustomed time on his hands, Valli found himself thinking about why he originally fell in love with haute couture, the strictly regulated production of custom-made outfits that is exclusive to Paris.
“It’s something that exists a little bit like Champagne. It comes from here, and that’s that. You can call the rest what you like, but it’s not haute couture,” he remarked. “I delved into that memory in an obsessive way.”
The collection had all the Valli hallmarks: acres of tulle, chiffon, faille and cloque, and the exaggerated dimensions that have made him a darling of A-listers like Jennifer Lopez and Ariana Grande. There was little in the way of embellishment. Instead, he focused on cut, volume and technique to sculpt the fabric.
Valli tested his atelier’s mettle with giant bow constructions: they swamped the torso on a draped ivory minidress, and puffed out from the hips of a scarlet one-shouldered evening dress. “For me, haute couture has to be an extreme moment,” he said. “My customers are very young — the youngest in the couture business, I think.”
A single bow was used as a decorative accent on the shoulder of a pale pink ballgown that sprouted a giant tulle ruffle, while a striking white bow belt punctuated a glistening black crop top and an embroidered black skirt that was sheer enough to show a flash of thigh. The designer said he felt like wrapping up his women, as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic with a greater awareness of the ties that bind us.
With physical shows canceled due to COVID-19, Valli showcased his designs with a film that juxtaposed extreme closeups of his creations with videos from his iPhone. “I’m taking by the hand all the viewers around the world who are still confined and can’t travel, and showing them Paris through my eyes,” he explained.
A great escape indeed.