#SuzyCouture: ‘Giamba’s Army’: Short And Decorated, Or Voluminous Froth

There was a tinge of irony in the fact that Giambattista Valli’s Paris Couture show was held on the same night as an homage to Yves Saint Laurent before the sale of a vast wardrobe of the late designer’s outfits belonging to French actress Catherine Deneuve. They will be auctioned off by Christie’s on Thursday.

Backstage at Valli, after a parade of bouncing tulle dresses swooping to thigh level at the front, Giambattista waved at the studio wall, where a group picture hung of people lolling elegantly about. It was a historic shot by Helmut Newton backstage at Yves Saint Laurent in 1977. It was done, of course, when all, including Yves himself, were young and care-free.

Italian-born but Parisian in spirit, Valli created a collection that was the equivalent of the YSL picture: clothes and, above all, the attitude of the young, stylish and quintessentially French.

In his show notes, ‘Giamba’, as friends call him, talked about the intimate and elegant haute couture salons of the great couturiers of the 1960s and 1970s. They were the essence of chic and the reason he decided to move to Paris 20 years ago.

Marie Antoinette, the essence of excess, was probably in his thoughts too, expressed in those over-the-top, ‘let them eat cake!’ gowns.

But the designer had the good sense to balance what he showed between the big and grand gestures, and the short, body-conscious and sassy. The body-hugging, way-above-the-knee outfits had another element: dense decoration of embroidered flowers, but on the chic, rather than the sweet, side.

In spite of his promised attachment to French style, the designer also took his wanderlust to brides in Brazil and Capri, who fell for the puffball silhouettes.

“I have to tell you, what we sell the most are these huge, impossible dresses,” Valli said. “Everybody loves them.”