It was a big day today for Giambattista Valli, or, as he put it, “a double-big day.” Not only did he show his spring collection, he was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of the greatest honors the French Republic bestows upon citizens, French or foreign, who have distinguished themselves for their contribution to the world of arts and culture. The ceremony was held at Musée Picasso: “It’s a huge honor for me and I’m humbled,” said Valli. “France is a country with a profound sense of freedom of expression. It has welcomed and supported me in building my vision and my story.”
Valli may well be part of the French fashion community (he has been living in Paris since the ’90s), but his Roman roots are never far from what feeds his creativity, which is imbued with Italian sensuality as well as a Parisian sense of effortless chic. This osmosis between different cultures brought him to reference the Grand Tour, the cultural expedition popular among the bright young things of the 18th and 19th centuries, a sort of romantic pilgrimage of knowledge around the Mediterranean, with Italy and its ancient past and ruins being a favorite destination. “It isn’t an elitist inspiration in the least,” he said backstage. “For me, the Grand Tour is a sort of metaphorical journey of introspection, a quest for self-improvement and knowledge, an appreciation for the beauty of our culture’s history.”
His mood board was plastered with images of the exceptional micro-mosaic jewelry reproducing archaeological sites that at the time was brought back as souvenirs by the young, often eccentric travelers, together with cameos finely inlaid on volcanic lava and gypsum reproductions of urns, capital cities, and mythological figurines. Micro-mosaic medallions were one of the visual leitmotifs of the collection, printed on white poplin-cotton column dresses with peplums or off-the-shoulder bodices, and on black silk georgette, loosely draped into fluid, flowing frocks.
The collection had a fresh, light feel to it. Decorations and embellishments, which Valli usually indulges as exuberant traits of creativity, were kept to a minimum, reduced to crystal-studded mid-heel sandals and graceful tiaras made of rows of white-gypsum fleurs d’oranger. Embroideries were treated with delicacy, hinting at exotic boteh motifs and abstract “grotesque” curlicues. The transparency of white macramé lace and the iridescence of sequins added to the overall sense of breezy vibrancy.
A few tailored pieces were introduced for rhythm—a cropped bellboy white jacket worn over a bell-shaped black miniskirt; a sharp-cut, broad-shouldered white blazer paired with a deep-red duchesse minidress—as well as a few summery brassiere-and-miniskirt ensembles in lamé-bouclé tweed, which had a svelte, lithe vibe. Yet what stood out were the long, sensuous dresses that are the designer’s forte. Variously draped, with feminine plays of swirling ruffle and airy, floating volumes, they made the case for a pared-down, lightweight, modern, fresh version of Valli. His personal Grand Tour seems to have brought him to a rather good place.
This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.