January 14, 2009
The enduring enigma of Giambattista Valli's career is why such a vibe-y young man is so attached to such an old-world aesthetic. The mystery is further compounded by the ardent coterie of equally vibe-tastic hotties who so willingly follow him to another time, another place. On Thursday night, they convened at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, where Valli was showing his pre-fall collection as the special guest of Pitti Immagine. Given the jaw-dropping magnificence of the surroundings, it was no wonder the designer felt compelled to revisit a slew of the haute couture references that define his work. The cape, the sack, the tulip, the peplumed-suit, the three-quarter sleeve, the gloves…the overwhelming cocktail-ness of it all felt like an Irving Penn parade from the fifties. Following on from Spring, the specter of Cristobal Balenciaga loomed over the collection, hanging heaviest with a dress whose hunchback of coin-dotted tulle gave its wearer the blighted demeanor of Quasimodette. Balenciaga black was also the dominant shade, which is a shame because Valli has been a bold colorist in the past. (Here, a flash of burnt orange and some absinthe-toned duchesse acted as reminders.) Given the haute society feel, it seemed appropriate that Valli's strongest pieces were his furs, particularly a belted coat in Mongolian lamb whose shagginess offered a welcome respite from the polite precision of everything around it.