In the first days of 2022, as Covid numbers were rising in Paris, Giambattista Valli’s phone started ringing. “Most of my couture clients were still on holiday. They were calling me, saying, ‘Oh my god, it looks so depressing in Paris at the moment. We’re skipping it.’” When members of his team began to drop like flies, one positive test after another, and pre-collection buyers were canceling their visits to the French capital, he decided to rethink his approach.
“We’re becoming a statement kind of house where there is everything,” he said during an appointment at his rue de Boétie headquarters. “I thought, I want to take the viewers’ hand and walk them through all the floors of the maison, to show that whether it’s a candle, an haute couture dress, or a t-shirt, we put the same expertise into the making.”
The film he created in place of a show combined his pre-fall 2022 and spring 2022 haute couture collections on one runway, freely alternating between industrial and artisanal clothes-making to illustrate that point. “The industrial side of our ready-to-wear is very, very high,” he pointed out. Neither collection came with a reference. This time, Valli said, it was all about demonstrating his instinct.
“I wanted to open her wardrobe and see what was in there,” he explained, the ‘she’ being his customer. And while it’s no secret that his couture clients aren’t necessarily the same as his pre-collection customers, at this stage in the life of the Giambattista Valli brand, it’s all about showing the synergy that exists within his house. It’s going well for Valli, who is expanding and currently renovating his second building for fancy showrooms and offices.
“We have a new market. You can really see that in the collection. It’s a great exercise for us, because the teams are growing. We have new buyers who love the couture, but they see there is a connection between the two,” he said. “We are small. We’re not Dior or Chanel. In a way, this is very positive, but we still have a conversation between all of us,” he noted, explaining how his studio and ateliers work. “There are no walls. Everything is open, even mentally.”
Now, it’s about communicating the continuous, concise romanticism of the Valli brand. At the apex of the pyramid, you have the couture gowns Valli poetically calls “nervous,” likening their eccentric and unpredictable volumes to Marcel Proust’s belief that “patients with a nervous disease are the salt of the earth” (a quote Pierre Bergé used about Yves Saint Laurent at his funeral).
A few floors down the Valli pyramid, you have the frilly, girly, sexy, easy romance of his pre-collection garments: a popified cordial of Parisian glamour to which you need only add water, et voilà, you have a lineup of bouclé skirt suit variations, jaunty debutante dresses, and light-as-air summer’s day flou. Valli can do this with his eyes closed, and while it shows no super obvious signs of the complex engineering of his haute couture experimentations, the spirit is there.
As for that engineering, it looked no less extra than usual. Valli’s couture is, as he rightly says, “a timeless moment flowing between past and present.” Like them or not, his tiered layer cake ballgowns and ballooning silhouettes are bursting with a kind of life and optimism to which you can’t help but surrender, especially on a rainy day in Covid-plagued Paris.
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