Friday, 1 February 2013

Close To Perfection VI: Giambattista Valli Haute Couture - Spring/Summer 2013


Image courtesy of: SHOWstudio
Always exceeding expectations can be quite the challenge, but a divine one.”
If, as the late Yves Saint Laurent once famously said, “The most beautiful clothes that can dress a woman are the arms of the man she loves,” then couture—that hand-crafted, most labour-intensive creative process—must be the next best thing. And if fashion was a mountain or a pyramid, then the rarefied world of haute couture would be its undoubted summit. (Quote: Valli of the Dolls,, December 19, 2012)
There was a noticeable absence in the haute couture showings—which took place from Monday, January 21st to Thursday, January 24th—in Paris this season. Riccardo Tisci, whom Mark Holgate has credited as having “...fused haute couture’s artisan’s approach with a gritty streetwise sensibility that has never been less than thrilling to view—and, when it comes to the women clamoring to get their hands on an ornate satin sweatshirt, a militaristic multi-layered coat, or a gladiatorial leather sandal, empowering to wear,” has opted not to present his Spring/Summer 2013 Haute Couture collection to the press. By most accounts, although the House of Givenchy still plans on continuing to cater haute couture gowns for private clientele at its atelier, the omission is regrettable. Like the revolution of the planetary globe on its axis, however, the haltless cycle (and life) of fashion waits for no one: at its December 18th, 2012, meeting (Commission de Classement Couture Création), the Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode—(also known more simply as Mode à Paris)—officially awarded Maison Martin Margiela and Alexis Mabille haute couture appellation. And fashion marches on, forging ahead.
(Quote & sources: Holgate, M., Vogue, January 8, 2013; Bergin, O., Telegraph, December 21, 2012; Mode à Paris, December 18, 2012)
Giambattista Valli backstage before his Spring/Summer 2012 Haute Couture presentation ~ his second couture collection in Paris
(Photo by Alexis Dahan)
Image courtesy of: Wmagazine
As disappointing as Givenchy's decision not to show this season is, another collection, by another Italian-born designer working in Paris, Giambattista Valli, has presented a beautiful, forty-two piece collection on the evening of Monday, January the 21st (the last presentation on that first day of the week's schedule). (Though originally scheduled to begin at 7:30 PM, the show—the front row of which included actress Salma Hayek; Vogue's editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour; the United States ambassador and his wife, Charles and Susan Rivkin; and long-time Valli-supporter and friend, Ms. Lee Radziwill—began nearly an hour late.) And although both designers—Riccardo Tisci and Giambattista Valli—share national origins and although both have distinct, sophisticated visions, of the two and by comparison, M. Tisci undoubtedly comes across as the stronger designer whose collections have not only achieved a new standard of couture sophistication but have also redefined the concept, the possibilities of present-day haute couture (and its relevance) in today's world. That said, it deducts nothing from (the Roman) M. Valli's own strengths and indisputable talents as a designer. (Sources: Emmrich, S., On The Runway, January 22, 2013; Mode à Paris, undated)
With his penchant for exotic animal prints, this is M. Valli's fourth haute couture showing to date. (A 1987 illustration courses graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design—he had previously attended the European Design Institute (IED) in 1986—and having worked both as a senior designer as well as an art director for such long-standing Houses as Roberto Capucci (1988), Fendi's more youthful Fendissime line (1990), Mariuccia Mandelli's Krizia label (1995) and, (in 2001) eventually securing the position of art director at Emanuel Unagaro (where he had already been the company's Prêt-à-Porter art director since 1997), M. Valli ventured independently as a designer by establishing his own House with the launch of his eponymous label when he presented his first collection in Paris in March of 2005.)
(Source: Giambattista Valli, undated)
From the moment I was a kid, I was always attracted to brocade, because of my Venetian side…it is part of my culture. ...I come from a culture where we are not afraid of more is more; we know how to put it together.”
Giambattista Valli's foray into the realm of haute couture is a recent one, having initially made a guest appearance during the Autumn/Winter 2011-2012 season. But as events would show, his 'guest' status was temporary and short-lived. As Jessica Bumpus recently pointed out in a brief review of Giambattista Valli's latest collection for UK, 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...” citing his mastery of “beautiful fabrication, exquisite embroidery and details” as one of the reasons for his expeditious induction into the league of French haute couturiers. (Source & quotes: Bumpus, J., Vogue, January 21, 2013)
It is the aura of the woman that matters.
Her mentality, psychology, and her point of view.

Backstage at the Spring/Summer 2013 Haute Couture presentation
The above three images are courtesy of: Fashionising

Nothing signals the end of wintry inertia while simultaneously heralding the reawakening of  new life as beautifully as  freshly emerging blooms—flowers are universally symbolic of spring's stirring rebirth. Whether they were printed, embroidered, beaded or used as backdrops, flowers—and, in a broader sense, the idea of a woodland or a delightful garden—were the predominant theme in many of the couture collections. (Inspired by a biography he read this past summer about the House's founder, Raf Simons toyed with Christian Dior's love of the countryside and his own garden to which he would retreat and tend to his flowers there—all of which was translated into “beading so delicate it was almost invisible, a trompe l'oeil drift of pansies across a waistband, a cocoon of embroidered and appliquéd blooms[Quote: Blanks, T.,, January 21, 2013]; while at the Grand Palais, an army of unnamed landscapers and builders realised Karl Lagerfeld's vision by creating a leafy forest—composed of real trees—as a sylvan backdrop for his sixty-nine-piece Chanel collection that came to a close with two brides. Once Lagerfeld's collection progressed from the perfunctory tweeds with which he opened his show, the woodland-inspired theme carried through, manifesting itself in his floral patterns which appeared on many of the sequin-embroidered dresses—along with one (and the only) embroidered pant suit in the collection. And at the House of Valentino, the creative design-team of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli showed several richly-patterned, intricately-worked floral dresses and gowns—“The subtle drama of an organza gown embroidered with crystals and topaz beads was summed up by its name: 'Le silence de tournesols'.”)
(Quote: Blanks, T.,, January 23, 2013
...the collection he presented tonight took those antique Roman codes, twirled them around, and deposited something old-but-new on the catwalk. ~ Tim Blanks

For this (mainly black-and-white-with-shades-of-grey) Giambattista Valli Spring/Summer 2013 collection, flowers sprang in profusion on dresses: in three-dimension (created from feathers), embroidered, beaded or appliquéd onto light-as-air tulle dresses—in both midi and micro-mini lengths (skirt lengths in the collection also included full and trailing trains as well); strapless or  round-necked—the floral theme even bloomed into tiara-like hair ornaments, jewellery—(clusters of golden flowers were massed around the models' necks as necklaces)—or foliate belts; in fact, (golden) foliage insinuated itself, wending its way—vine-like—through the collection. (The cast-bronze jewellery and accessories for the show were created by fellow-Roman and long-time collaborator, the jeweller—and former architect—Luigi Scialanga.) The setting for the show—presented in the “exquisite Sicilian theater of the Italian ambassador’s residence (built in 1732 as the Hôtel de la Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville)” under a ceiling as replete with (plasterwork) flowers and foliage as some of the ornaments and accessories shown in the collection—was as intimate as it was apt, inspired as it was by “flora and fauna,” as M. Valli himself explained. (Source & quote: Bowles, H., Vogue, January 22, 2013)

The above three images are courtesy of: Citizen Chic
Taking his cue from the idea of “wild animals in the shadows,” M. Valli also played with some of his favourite animal prints—not only those feline prints of the ocelot, the leopard, and the tiger for which he is best known, but also the reptilian scales of the python, the crocodile and the alligator—some of which he “veiled” or, rather, “hid” behind fine black tulle, giving the impression (and added depth) of “shadows.” Some prints were rendered in bead-work; others were either printed on billowy silk chiffon or, as in the case of one white faille ensemble with a cascading peplum, “a dramatic band of hand-cut velvet black alligator scales down the front....” (One ink-black shift dress—which also displayed the same “dramatic band of hand-cut velvet black alligator scales down the front,” an effect that appeared on several other ensembles either in velvet or in bead-work—featured a real crocodile-skin flat collar that acted as a plinth at the base of the neck, framing the model's head.) In a video interview with Jennifer Neyt of Vogue Paris, M. Valli explained that, in this collection, he liked the idea of “silhouettes with big volumes... but volumes with great lightness and sheerness.”
(Sources & quotes: Bowles, H., Vogue, January 22, 2013; Neyt, J., Haute Couture Week, Episode 1, Vogue Paris, 2013)
Above left image, courtesy of: Mon Sac | Above right image, courtesy of: Vogue Australia
Image courtesy of: Deccan Chronicle
No better illustration of the “silhouettes with big volumes,” of which M. Valli spoke, can be provided than in the under-structure and wiring that underpinned skirts and gowns—at times making the peplum or skirt, whether it be long or short, jut out in the front, bell-like; or, as in the case of some of the longer, calf-length coat-dresses and day dresses, skirts domed around the hips and narrowed at the calf, giving the clothes an inverted 'tulip' shape. The silhouettes not only referenced the padded shapes of Christian Dior's suits and ball-gowns, but is a clear indication of Giambattista Valli's intimate knowledge of and familiarity with haute couture; it is a knowledge that can only be acquired through study and observation. Overall, the collection had a decidedly 1950s look to it, a period of time when haute couture was in its Golden Age.
The 1950s were also hinted at in the great ball gowns in the finale section of the collection where soft-lilac-coloured taffetta—tucked, ruched, and folded—and white-tulle ball gowns—sprinkled throughout with minute, subtly twinkling sequins—brought the show to an end. But M. Valli's sure hand did not stop at tulle and taffeta. Richly embroidered-and-beaded brocades also made their appearance.
Image courtesy of: Suicide Blonde
As serious as the craft of haute couture may be, its underlying purpose is to be agréable—as the French say—to be a divertissant: it must be enjoyed and revelled in. And although tradition and modernity are polar opposites, one cannot exist without the other: for permanence and continuity, traditions need to be modernised; at the same time, modernity relies on the past for its evolvement—new leaves cannot form without a tree's branches, and trees cannot grow without their earth-deep roots.

From start to finish, from the finely-tailored and impeccably-cut coat-dresses and suits to the intricately-beaded and embroidered gowns and evening pant-suits, this was a tour de force collection in the best traditions of haute couture—thoroughly modern and relevant, yet inherently traditional.





The above forty-two images are courtesy of: Wmagazine
(All forty-two photos above are by Marcus Tondo/InDigitalteam | GoRunway)
I'm Roman—In Rome, there is such an old culture. You are so spoiled. It is in one's DNA. The moment you have vision in front of you, you don't need to try and push eccentricity or glamour.
Image courtesy of: I Dream of a World of Couture
Video courtesy of: Eros17Daria ~ YouTube
Valli found a cache of exquisite porcelain flowers at auction, of the type used to decorate painted tole chandeliers in the eighteenth century, and wanted to capture “the three-dimensional lightness of translucent Meissen porcelain” in these enchanting, flora-inspired pieces. Embroideries gave the illusion of print, with fondant-pink faille scrolled with a medieval rose design in silver tinsel thread or full skirts densely scattered with blossoms made from organza or feathers.” ~ Hamish Bowles
Suggested reading:
Giambattista Valli (2013), by Giambattista Valli, Rania of Jordan & Diane Kruger: Universe Books/Rizzoli