#SuzyPFW: Giambattista Valli’s Free Spirits
With all the news of populist politics in last weekend’s Italian election, we might expect a fashion reaction – at least among designers with Italian blood in their veins.
And maybe it is so. I have been struck by falling hemlines throughout the current Autumn/Winter 2018 season. By fashion folklore – although never proven – dropping skirt lengths are a prelude to a tightening of the belt.
So when Giambattista Valli showed a collection of appealing, covered-up clothes with just a handful of short skirts – six out of 56 outfits – I began to wonder about hard times ahead. The designer also put a focus on trousers, and even on denim. This could also be the designer’s eagerness to branch out: it’s been six months since he signed with French holding company Artémis owned by François Pinault, father of Kering’s François-Henri Pinault.
“This interest came at the right moment,” Valli said. “It was a great confirmation – it’s the biggest compliment I could get.”
Valli is a romantic, a lover of free spirits, whether it is a particular woman with a history, or the memory of a love affair between a penniless Roman artist and the princess he fell for. Like the other women in the designer’s fashion life, she is someone who shrugs off the banal and has an individual and personal vision.
“It’s exactly this – it can be a colour or a person – it’s about emotions,” the designer said. “I imagine her being French or Roman and going to California and then going to India. California is good because it’s a moment where somebody is escaping from something heavy, something political.
“I am looking up to this woman who is curious and feels very comfortable in her femininity,” he continued. “I love the idea of women but I hate it when feminism become a castration for women and you turn them into men. I just love women to be powerful like a man, that’s very important for me. But she is free, she is a woman – and what I try to support is her right to express herself like that.”
That’s a lot of words as a preamble to a fashion collection. But the clothes were as light as the words seemed heavy.
This female firefly appeared first in denim – an all-in-one jeans outfit, and other casual (but expensive looking) trouser outfits. Yet by far the most prominent feature of this collection was the length of the hemlines. Although there were a few short, wide dresses, stopping thigh high to make room for over-the-knee boots, most pieces were long and body covering. Valli cited references to Seventies women with a story. But the clothes seemed less hippie and more aristocratic – or even with a whiff of Victoriana.
Colour played a strong part, from an episcopal purple dress, with frills running downward in rivulets, to a floor-length mustard yellow coat worn over a burnt orange dress. What the designer described as “tantric drawings” gave a more hippie deluxe spirit. As did the models with metallic silver and gold dust on their faces as they walked through the underground level of the Palais de Tokyo.
Valli himself took his bow in a zipper jacket that almost hid his signature strand of pearls. That seemed a personal statement from the designer of changing times, whether it is in politics or hemlines.