Go on, launch a luxury goods label in the teeth of this recession……I dare you. I guess you could say faint heart never won fashion prizes (to coin a phrase). But it takes some cojones to launch a couture collection in 2011. You are up against the giants of the business: Chanel and Valentino (who have pretty much bagged all the best clients). And, because the rules state that you must be based in Paris, you are employing some of the most expensive workforce in the world. And yet, newcomers are joining the schedule every season, surely proving that the reputations fashion designers have for being fragile hot house flowers are undeserved. The stars of today’s business are a gutsy lot.
An exciting newcomer this season is Giambattista Valli. The Italian who has made his home in Paris, where he worked with Emanuel Ungaro before setting up alone, has already been a fixture at ready to wear for almost 10 years. His is the kind of old school glamour that has a set of international beauties lining up for what he does. His front rows are never short of a Brandolini, a Missoni, a Santo Domingo or two.
And so it was this evening in the understated setting of the Galerie Madeleine where his shop is situated. There was no drama in the presentation. Just two long front rows with ladies rubbernecking to spot Daphne Guinness and Anna Dello Russo, Margherita Missoni, Bianca Brandolini, Olivia Palermo and Andrea Dellal.
None of them can have been disappointed. If couture is embracing a new customer: the internet age clientele of fast living, luxury loving ladies of every age from every corner of the globe, then designers like Giambattista Valli have something significant to say. A black and white opening section featured pretty flower strewn dresses and crystal and coral encrusted sheaths. At times the embroidery almost seemed overpowering. He may have felt he had a lot to prove. But I like it best when Giamba keeps things sweet and simple. (One of my favourite looks was the mannish white shirt and black cocktail skirt combo). Nevertheless there can’t have been anyone who witnessed this assured debut who could have doubted that the workmanship which was 100% couture.
A section of white feather embroidered dresses and coats cinched with Luigi Sciallanga’s gold belts wrought with leaves and flowers were glamorous enough to confirm that no one this winter will be hankering for fur when feathers deliver this kid of fabulous femininity. A section of long chiffon dresses in scarlet or leopard were topped with simple billowing capes. And a finale of gowns embroidered with enough layers of frilled tulle to fill the entire width of the catwalk gave us our first proper fashion moment of the week.
- Paula Reed in Paris