by Alexander Fury .

Giambattista Valli

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A lacquer-red backdrop set the scene for Giambattista Valli's A/W 2008 collection, seemingly inspired by the kind of hobble-skirted, bound footed Chinese courtesans found populating Coromandel screens and suspiciously East Anglian willow pattern plates. His models emerged dressed as Oriental princesses, swathed in fur, teetering atop slant-heeled platforms, and bound - for there truly is no other word for those chopstick-slim hobble-hem pencil-skirts - in all matter of exotic fabrics. Valli played with texture as opposed to decoration: ruffles were packed tightly to quivver across surfaces like lotus petals, and highly-textured old-world couture fabrics like matelasse and metallic cloqué were crafted into ballooning shapes. The cloisonné colour palette of jade-green, pearlescent rose-beige and every shade of porcelain was exquisitely delicate, contrasting with the strong wedge-shaped top-heavy silhouette emphasised by necks swathed in fur, 3-D blooms or puffa-padding - a preview of Valli's Montcler Gamme Rouge range due to be unveiled tomorrow, maybe? It may be this design split that pushed Valli towards the couture for his own line, saving sportier, easier-to-wear elements for the Moncler range. And credit where credit's due, the beauty of Valli's vision was almost enough to silence the niggling question of what modern woman could wear such restrictive, hampering and overwhelmingly impractical clothes. Almost.