GIAMBATTISTA VALLI has been officially part of the couture line-up now for three seasons, having made a guest appearance for autumn/winter 2011-12. Designers typically receive appellation only after they’ve showed couture for five years, but the Paris Fédération Française de la Couture decided that the standard of Valli’s work was so high that he was eligible for the honour – and so he’s part of the gang now.
And it’s easy to see why. He tackled tricksome shapes that wouldn’t so much work in the realms of ready-to-wear: mini crinis and full shapes of skirt; longer training lengths at the back to shorter splaying ones at the front (certain versions of these much harder to wear than others); waists defined through volume built up and around their front and, even, on this occasion, a couture take on the onesie: cigarette pants and a bodice up top with a train cascading behind it. You heard it here first.
But it’s because Valli is a master of beautiful fabrication, exquisite embroidery and details that his shapes, though overall difficult in this collection, are able to work.
And we saw plenty of shapeliness, those sculpted vase silhouettes for which he is so well known, carving curves down the catwalk for the first two thirds of the show in a monochrome colour palette: bow-belted, animal print dresses that played heavily on midi as the length of choice, again one that can often be difficult to pull off but he managed to make it elegant.
“It was a very traditional, luxury idea of couture,” said Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman, noting how this was emphasised further through the demure and understated use of hair and make-up so that all the attention and focus remained on the shapes of the clothes, their accompanying embellishments and Valli’s sartorial trademarks.
So aside from the sculpted contours and voluminous skirts, we had caped shoulders trailing short at the back and there was of course a ladylike elegance throughout – tea rose shades, cinched waists and lots of blooms. And it was interesting to see all of above worked into that new midi length to give something of a new lease of life even though this is a designer who likes to tread the core lines of couture.