#SuzyCouture: Giambattista Valli – Sweet Stuff of Youth

Claiming the youngest clientele for haute couture, Giambattista Valli set out to seduce his audience with a show that had art at its heart.

Models with skirt hems that swooped up and down, their shoes smothered in fluffy ostrich feathers, walked around a garden wall decorated with lavender and fluttering butterflies.

Athough his clothes are in many ways conventional, Giambattista has depth to his work. This has taken him steadily forward as a rising, and now highly successful, star of haute couture.

The designer’s inspiration was the French avant-garde artist Francis Picabia and his painting of a young girl. “Why Picabia?” the designer asked himself, pointing backstage to a sketch that came from his own home. “I love the idea that this is the starting point,” he said of the artist’s modernist work. “I felt I would love to look into the eyes of this girl. I love drawings, so I did a lot of black and white.”

Part of the reason for Giambattista’s confidence is that his label is now supported by the Pinault family’s private investment arm, Artémis. This seems to have encouraged him to go for a young crowd. Without continuing an earlier shape of full and frilly skirts, or vivid colours that were once his trademark, Giambattista still captures the new generation.

“I love independent girls and strong characters – girls that are not so fashion gifted – and I love my young-generation couture customers, who are not afraid to wear haute couture,” the designer said.

“It’s even better to see the high jewellery from Chopard when they wear it in an easy way,” he continued. “I love the idea of these ghetto girls, or more often the ‘ghetto attitude’ with expensive girls. I love the idea of mixing the two cultures.”

I am not entirely convinced that the designer’s clients are ghetto fabulous. But I got the message that today, well bred, nice girls might have tattoos and be willing to wear short dresses with bold bows as belts and a frame of frills on a shirt.

The familiar full skirt has been exchanged for more slender lines. And to compensate for covering the legs, there might be a circle of exposed flesh around the midriff.

Having just been to the newly opened Giambattista Valli store on London’s Sloane Street, I can appreciate the designer’s mix of sweet ruffles and some tougher attitude.

And luring a new generation into the orbit of haute couture is good for its somewhat shaky future.