The Scene: Giambattista Valli Fall 2014 Haute Couture presentation at the Grand Palais.
The Inspiration: Donatella Versace on Sunday night, and now Christian Dior and Giambattista Valli on Monday — Paris has 50s fever at the moment. Valli’s lush collection, with its particular emphasis on full-skirted dresses and gowns, many of them lavishly embellished with floral embroideries and appliques, sits comfortably within the framework thus far established this couture season. And while Donatella succeeded nicely with moving her aesthetic forward, the collection nonetheless felt undeniably Italian, while Raf Simons continues to expertly massage the duality of his love of minimalism with the Dior DNA. But if there’s a collection two days in that overall has felt wholly Parisian — because remember, couture is a proud Parisian art form — well, Valli certainly nailed it.
The Look: How did Valli accomplish such a feat? He kicked off not with flowers, but with stripes as well as graphic black and white looks with asymmetrically draped skirts. The opening group finished with a sleeveless sheath in contrasting black and white stripes, its skirt front adorned with a massive bow. From there, Valli segued into his garden party: anemones, geraniums, daisies, gardenias and wisteria, all gathered into a veritable bouquet of sumptuous options, many in full-skirted dresses that evoked Elizabeth Taylor circa A Place in the Sun. Before you think all those flowers might feel a bit too precious, consider that Valli worked an air of modernity into the silhouettes and details, like in the sheer panels that finished a striped skirt paired with a floral-embroidered top in Chantilly lace or the tulle, A-line skirt that showed a hint of bare leg below what looked like a full bodysuit embellished with daisies and leaves in embroidered macrame and tulle.
The only pieces that felt a bit off were a pair of fur coats — one in a shade of deep lilac that wended its way through the collection, another in a black and white patchwork that will surely spawn more than a few Cruella de Vil comments on social media. But all was forgiven once Valli sent out the quartet of fantasy looks for his finale. The grouping of wonderfully voluminous ball gown skirts included two in tulle degradé, with the red-to-pink version paired with a red silk-taffeta blouse that felt undeniably 50s. A ball gown skirt covered in pale blue ostrich feathers was paired with a silk-taffeta shirt in the same shade, while a one-shoulder gown in silk faille and silk mousseline included the word “parrots” in the show notes, and indeed, the mix of blues and greens here called to mind a bird who likes to preen. In other words, perfect for any one of the fearless Hollywood PYTs your mind can conjure.
The Accessories: Flowers didn’t find their way onto dresses solely via embroideries. Surely, you’ll also want the matte-gold necklaces and belts, with sculpted anemones serving as the centerpieces.
The Front Row: Emma Watson made the rounds on Monday, turning up at Dior before arriving at Valli; she’s the ideal muse for one of the princess-like floral looks seen here. Not the parrot gown, which would easily overwhelm the petite star, but the more delicate florals? Perfection. Meanwhile, not far away sat Lee Radziwill, who knows a thing or two about effortless chic — if anyone could pull off the classic white shirt/yellow tulle skirt finale look, you’d better believe it’s the late Jackie O’s equally stylish younger sister.
The Takeaway: Judging from the number of floral dresses from Valli’s current season in the audience — why hello, Anna Dello Russo, wearing a look from the Spring 2014 Couture collection — it’s clear Valli knows a good thing when he sees it. And while flower power might reign in Valli’s universe, the stripes, tulle ball gowns and even the handful of sleek gowns in silk crepe, prove this Italian designer knows a thing or two about crafting a French, sorry, make that Parisian, fantasy.