Zebra stripes askew on Giambattista Valli’s signature runway carpets were the first clue to his off-key couture collection.
Then there was the mood board backstage, where the beautiful-and-doomed Talitha Getty in the drug-fuelled 1970s faced off the artistically eccentric Peggy Guggenheim.
“I like the idea of contrasts — like I did last season,” said Giambattista, as he showed me the exquisite details of silk brocade, metallic raffia and outsize earrings that shrieked ‘artsy’.
But none of this prepared me for the huge hunks of tulle in fluorescent orange or acid green — skirts that ended the show in a puffball fantasy. They also created a daytime geometry, as a ballooning top was balanced by narrow pants.
As unlikely as it might seem, Giambattista pulled off this heady concoction of clothing, and elevated the idiosyncratic to an art form.
The two essentials of this designer’s shows are the fine workmanship that creates the effect of a pointillist pattern or brocade floral; the other is his following from the young international set, who will party until they drop in the short-and-sweet dresses, and get wed in a version of the puffball gowns.
Jessica Alba, sitting in the front row amongst Euro-glam clients, gasped at the jubilation of it all.
Valli is arguably the house — leaving aside Chanel — that is most successful in creating pure haute couture, meaning that it is aimed at individual clients and at brand burnishing in equal measure.
How impressive it is that Giambattista, with no brand heritage, has on his own energy built a couture house with exceptional workmanship and a fashion following.
This show was too long and, unlike the bouncy tulle, started to sag. But there were always powerful pieces: tunics with gleaming, embroidered blossom branches worn with the simplest of narrow pants; or a cute dress, its short skirt opening up like flower petals over a slim, lacy skirt.
These twists on classics were given a touch of eccentricity by the giant earrings or funky Guggenheim-esque sunglasses.
Bringing a twist to tradition and pepping up conventional couture is what ‘Giamba’, as his young clients call him, does so well. And this acid-house glamour was particularly dynamic.