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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

#SuzyCouture Giambattista Valli: Travelling Light

Mogul patterns of flowers and a pouf of chiffon at the rear gave a storyline to couture's passage to India

26 Января 2017


“India!” said Giambattista Valli, referring to the Mogul decoration he put on his collection with a light hand - sprigs of flowers implanted on white satin and jewels glinting as decoration. More flowers clung to the body in dense embroidery or strayed like a wayward plant in a print on a white dress.


There were other themes in this delicate collection: the concept of travel with folds on satin dresses as though the clothes had been packed for a long journey and only just removed from their bags, and the memory of Franca Sozzani, the Vogue Italia editor who died at the end of last year.


These may sound like heavyweight references, yet this was one of the lightest collections Giambattista has produced for couture. In fact, compared to say three years ago, it is as though a wind of change has blown through the designer's collections.


Everything was feather light, except the venue - the French Archives where hundreds of thousands of historical documents are stored, including a book of fabric propositions for Marie Antoinette, and the last letter the doomed Queen of France wrote before she was beheaded.


Once again, this storyline was dense and heavy, but the collection produced by Giambattista was as light as a breeze. The daywear was based on a tunic - one of the designer's daytime favourites - shown either on its own as a short dress or with silken trousers.


That tunic and pants effect coupled with the Indian flower patterns had a simple elegance. But it continued to appear when the collection moved into evening, as the base of an outfit where tulle swooshed around at the back like a big, fluffy tail.


The concept of visible folds was hardly convincing as a storyline. Whereas in fashion's past, Martin Margiela might have examined the concept of clothes having a previous life, that rude poetry fitted awkwardly with haute couture, where a maid and a travel iron would be essential travel accessories.


But fashion reflections need not be taken literally. The satin fold-marks looked fresh and they - like the Franca Sozzani headband - showed up only intermittently.

This designer has made a point of focusing on the younger generation and the ingénue dresses with a flurry of tulle or a cloud of chiffon at the back of a mini dress looked youthful and fun. This being made-to-order couture, the fabric 'tail' could be turned into a more grown-up, full-skirted gown.

I liked the line 'Giamba', as his young clients call him, wrote on his mood board: "In charge of her own femininity".

Without burning bridges or changing fashion dramatically, Giambattista moves on in his own sweet way. It was easy to imagine this collection was just what Marie Antoinette herself might have ordered - exotic florals and all.

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