France’s culture ministry honored Giambattista Valli Friday night by awarding the Italian designer with the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres. He returned the compliment with a first-rate runway show in Paris.
Inspired by the idea of a Grand Tour of Europe for the new generation, this was a bucolic, beautiful and occasionally brilliant display by Valli, a Roman who has made Paris his home for the past three decades.
Playing on the 18th-century idea of travel as enlightenment, Valli sent his gals on a ramble around great cultures and cities. Staged inside the Pavillon Vendôme, Valli had his favorite fashion acolytes, and well-travelled gals, in the front row – Olivia Palermo, Anna dello Russo and Giovanna Battaglia.
His finest hour was the Empire waist chiffon dresses made of the most elegant print of the season – a series of subtle architectural images blended with artful symmetry.
Giambattista also threw in some of his signature lace panel dresses, yet with plenty of dash; black chiffon gowns and some smart tailoring – in mannish oversized gray flannel. He also jazzed up some great off-the-shoulder columns, showing lace bras underneath; and sent out a few suggestive dentelle cocktails with underwear visible.
Though his best idea were the fabulous prints – combining images of architectural plates, prints of historic buildings, classical urban vistas, trompe l’oeil frescoes and sketches of the Ancient World.
“A grand tour of Florence, Rome, Naples, Taormina, Athens and Istanbul, the Mediterranean basin for new generations,” he explained, in a packed backstage.
Post-show, Valli will join an elite group of Italian designers – Valentino Garavani, Giorgio Armani and Maria Grazia Chiuri – in being recognized by France, when he is awarded a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres. No better man. In an illustrious career, which included a stint as designer of Ungaro, Giamba, as everyone knows him, has created a special haute-couture house with a unique DNA, dressing women in novel and remarkable clothes.
Asked how he felt about the award, Valli responded: “I feel so surprised, and so blessed and so thankful. Because the French really support freedom of expression here and I love that. So, I really thank them for everything. It is like another dream coming true and it was very unexpected, I am telling you.”
Nina Ricci: The usual suspects
The much-feted Harris Reed, an American who lives in London, staged his second show for the Paris house of Nina Ricci, and it felt like a case of the Usual Suspects.
Reed clearly has talent, and an understanding of fashion and culture. Plus, the sheer finish of this collection testified to how time spent in Paris does every fashionista the world of good. Young Harris has clearly not been lazy, and it would appear kept his atelier pretty busy.
Perhaps too much so, given the plethora of over-sized looks. He cut tuxedos with lapels as thick as a Samoan prop’s thighs and overpowered cocktails with one-yard-wide bows.
Still, Harris is a darned good image maker – like his steely seafoam green pants suits worn with matching bra and cut with ginormous flared pants, or marvelous gown composed of a black leotard and two huge white crinoline sides. A maverick black Marie Antoinette on the loose and Monsieur Tweed at his best.
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