Question: If all the camel coats in all the Fall collections were laid end to end, how many people would be able to tell them apart? Giambattista Valli added one of his own to the long line of beige show-openers: a cocoon-ish shape balanced on kitten-heel slingbacks. The shoes were a key to the slightly sixties theme he was working. It's another trend of the season, of course, but it's also a decade this designer frequently uses as a starting point for his unashamedly feminine, slightly frothy approach—which was soon to break out in tufted 3-D ribbon embroideries, variously deployed on shifts and gowns.
Whatever Valli does—cute day suits, short cocktail, or over-the-top statement gowns—it has the knack of charming the wealthy, social customers who are his loyal friends. The Valli girls, including Brooke Shields, Coco Brandolini, Dr. Lisa Airan, and Andrea Dellal's shoe-designer daughter, Charlotte, were there in force this time to show solidarity with the designer, as well as to shop. Like several other Italian labels recently, Valli's has caught the fallout from the financial catastrophes that have been sinking fashion conglomerates in his home country. Mariella Burani Fashion Group, which manufactures his collections, went bankrupt last month and is being liquidated. An announcement released just before the show stated he is taking production into his own hands.
Valli's fans will find a lot to like among his Fall offerings, which eschewed plainness and sobriety for mostly short, swingy dresses with elaborate surfaces and sheer panels (perhaps the through-views to the panties will somehow be obscured in reality). Some of the tuxedo looks over wisps of chiffon—an homage to the Saint Laurent retrospective about to open in Paris—might well (again, with the underwear issues sorted out) appeal to the brigade of chic mothers Valli also serves. Considering the crisis conditions under which this collection was designed, it was a respectable show from one of fashion's more resolutely optimistic survivors. Could the fact that there was an oligarch in the front row be a sign of hope? Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB agent who is a British newspaper proprietor, was scanning the show with his son Evgeny, a sponsor of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.