From the negotiations for clothes fresh off the runway that were going on backstage after Giambattista Valli's show, this much was clearer than ever: The designer has struck upon a look that suits the twentysomething jet-setters and actress types in his front row exceedingly well. After Fall's long, almost clerical lengths and the fifties ball skirts of the season before, he went short and leggy for Spring. The recurring silhouette was a drop-waist frothy minidress reminiscent of the twenties. Smothered in dense fringe or feathers (both real and represented in trompe l'oeil prints) or swirls of jeweled embroideries, these jazzy numbers were interspersed with the egg-shaped dresses and cocoon coats that have become a signature of Valli's nearly five-year-old collection. This season, those came in graphic color-blocking or overscale prints and embroideries inspired by antique carpets. Bold leopard-stamped ponyskin was also in the mix; a short-sleeved jacket and shorts suit in the stuff seemed to attract particularly strong interest from his socialite fan club.
Backstage, Valli name-checked early-twentieth-century artists like Brancusi, Picasso, and Man Ray, explaining that he was also thinking about ethnic art and tribalism while designing. If the origins of this newly youthful yet still sophisticated collection went straight over the heads of the bright young things it seems so perfect for, who really cares? The zhoozh factor is what counts, and this season Valli's got it.