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.

Valli’s Independent Sense of Chic

Godfrey Deeny
March 07th, 2011 @ 2:06 PM - Paris

Giambattista Valli is an erudite Italian designer born in Rome, who has made his home in Paris for over a decade and now makes the most "French" looking fashion that one can imagine seeing in fashion's most important single capital.

His latest collection, staged Monday, March 7, in a medieval hospital ward in central Paris, echoed the sort of silhouettes and sensibilities one associated with elegant, pre-hippie Paris. Yet Valli's novel use of materials and sense of quirky proportion made the whole aesthetic bright and new.

For the fall 2011 season, Valli wants to see women in black and white fur combination coats, done in mixes of shaved mink, sable and goats hair.

Valli also has an exceptional eye when it comes to prints - sending out floral patterns that recalled 19th century Flemish dinner services. And his sense of detailing, from twisting ruffles to immense knots of satin linked at the hip of mini skirts, has a rare assurance.

His color plate, which he referred to as "thermal colors," included hot blood oranges, bold canary yellows and electric blues, adding the right dose of pizzazz to this ladylike meditation.

Plus his finale was spectacular: a black swan of a dress in acres of tulle and splayed behind model Joan Smalls. Four assistants were needed to twist the train through a narrow passageway on to the catwalk. Like the collection it was a complicated moment but, ultimately, also one of great charm.

With Paris rife with speculation on whom might eventually replace John Galliano at Christian Dior, it's been a surprise how few people have mentioned Valli as a possible candidate. Perhaps that's because, like the early '60s that this show echoed, the designers from that era where only interested in creating their own brands, not becoming hired guns for bigger existing labels. And that seems very much to be Valli's long-term goal. Complete artistic freedom in his own house, as his own boss. Long may that continue.

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