The atmosphere at couture shows is nothing like Prêt-à-Porter: as soon as couture week starts, cool it-boys and girls and hip young editors dressed by emerging designers fade away to make room for mink-clad, diamond-covered clients and venerable ‘vieille école’ French editrixes. In that respect, no one enjoys the traditions of couture more than Giambattista Valli. On Monday evening, he welcomed at the Grand Palais a crowd of European aristocrats and acolytes (Countess Bianca Brandolini d’Adda and Spanish Royal Family satellites Nati Abascal and Jaime de Marichalar are loyal customers) in a décor of floral and cream carpets and mirrors hanging from the ceiling (mirrors are clearly in this season: they were present at Schiaparelli and Dior as well).
His collection was a crossover between two women who, despite living in different eras, were not so disparate: Coco Chanel and Janis Joplin. Both were complicated, tortured, provocative and liberated. The first expressed her freedom through simple, functional boyish dresses. The former used acid colours and outrageous fashion statements. There was a little bit of both in the collection, wrapped up in Valli’s characteristic soft femininity. In his hands, little black dresses became transparent and frilly, simple feathered tops were paired with white and powder pink millefeuille skirts that made the models look like exquisite little cupcakes, and flower embroideries made their way through almost every look. The Joplin side of the collection was visible in the sequin embroidered ensembles, the tunics and skirts worn over slim silk trousers and the fluoro blooms embroidered in long dresses. Paradoxically, it was these last few looks that felt most cumbersome (the floor-long frill and feather capes seemed almost reactionary). Luckily, unlike the delicate, almost ethereal looks at the beginning of the show, they were a far cry from Valli’s signature style.