Giambattista Valli’s inspiration board this season featured images of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in a pensive mood in the thirties, and then taking a walk in the gardens of the Tuileries in feisty later life—juxtaposed with portraits of Janis Joplin, in hippie patchwork and bellbottoms. Unlikely bedfellows? Perhaps not. “I love the idea of ‘impossible conversations,’ ” explained Giambattista during a marathon fitting session the night before his show. “But although they seem like opposites, everything you never think could go together—actually, they do. Coco and Janis are both free spirits, with that nonchalant kind of attitude.”
In this mood of melding elements that seem incompatible, Giambattista showed frothing romantic-length ballet skirts (composed of mille-feuille layers of organza or endless ruffles of black point d’esprit spotted net), over sleekly tailored boot-leg pants, whilst all enveloping capes of net in sugar almond colors would be shrugged off a shoulder to reveal a sleek sixties tunic and pant look beneath. Or the contrast could be as understated as an unembellished band of shiny aluminum steel to cinch the waist of a dress of diaphanous ivory lace, with a neckline that framed the face in a haze of airy flounces.
Up close and personal, the embellishments told the story of the haute couture—fragile flower prints and custom-designed textured brocades with their motifs picked out with embroidered blossoms of organza or Rhodoïd plastics. A computerized “print” that turned out to have been simulated with tiny sequins, and a shaggy Mongolian goat cape (which suggested, in Giambattista’s narrative, that you had thrown your bedside rug over your shoulders!) was lined in pale net, embroidered with the same motif that was printed on the chiffon of the tunic and the rib silk of the pants worn with it. But just as “couture” was the notion of a little shrunken jacket, easy as a cardigan, in citrus brocade, worn over a stiff silk “T-shirt” and a runway-hogging ball-gown skirt. It’s all in the attitude.