Giambattista Valli is the last designer you would expect to channel cross-gender influences on the catwalk, but this season, the king of the frothy ballgown found his masculine edge.

Valli said he was inspired by the love story between Italian artist Mario Schifano and writer Nancy Ruspoli, and how they both changed as a result of their relationship: The Italian princess chopped off her hair, while Schifano took to living in a Renaissance palazzo.

Valli decided to tell the story through clothes, singling out a handful of key items from the painter’s wardrobe — a lozenge-patterned shirt, khaki pants or jeans — and figuring out how to blend them into his ultra-romantic wardrobe. “I’d love to start to enlarge the wardrobe of this Valli woman,” he explained backstage.

The long-sleeved shirts were paired with shrunken knit vests and frilly skirts in a collision of clashing motifs. Floral-patterned pants were softened with a lacy bra top, or a cropped sequined vest with a black lace underlay. Denim appeared in the form of a logo-printed vest, jackets and jeans.

They suggested interesting ways the business could grow in a more casual direction, now that it has a new investor in Artémis, the private fund of the billionaire Pinault family.

But Valli seemed truly in his element with his more overtly feminine creations — a one-shouldered pink dress with an asymmetric hem, a gentle ruched prairie dress, and floor sweeping evening gown sprouting bands of horizontal ruffles. Girls will be girls.

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