In the recent flurry of designer hirings, firings, and resignations, Giambattista Valli might have been marked down as last season's footnote: Out at Ungaro. But with remarkable speed and an extraordinary chorus of support (including Lee Radziwill and Diane Kruger in the front row, not to mention Dita Von Teese on the runway), Valli has regrouped and come back with his own signature collection in Paris.
Goodwill and friendship notwithstanding, a huge question mark hung over his debut. As one of those backroom assistants who has thus far acted as a ventriloquist for another designer's voice, what, if anything, Valli had to say on his own behalf was uncertain. A statement about modernized glamour on the one hand, and poufy, crinolined evening on the other seemed to be the essence of it, though the presentation proved the designer has gathered sophistication as well as connections along his way.
For day, he has a way with knits (balloon-sleeve cashmere sweaters) and coats that cut a sixties couture swagger in loose, minimalist camel or come belted with a swing back. His precisely fitted military jackets and officer's coats, with glamorous tab fastenings and Mongolian-lamb collars, have a close-to-the-body femininity that might please as exacting a client as Radziwill. These, several nifty tuxedos (one with a tailcoat jacket pieced in black bouclé tweed and satin), and gutsy handheld crocodile totes, gave an unexpectedly confident polish to the proceedings.
Still, there's a heck of a conflict going on if you're hoping to dress both Radziwill and Von Teese. Valli's Dita-inspired dresses are corseted, bustled, poufed, and crinolined to the max. Aside from those, there were a few rather good tightly draped black jersey dresses sashed with bows or sprouting tulle at the bust that announced, thank you, Ungaro, and goodnight. Valli can hardly be blamed for getting them out of his system. He'll have to figure out a few issues before next season, but kudos are due to him for getting such a show on the road in record time.