From snowy white dresses to giant gowns, Giambattista Valli told a romantic story, fêted with a violin sonata, applauded by Céline Dion and with a focus — like so much of Paris haute couture — on bold, puffy shoulders.
Without a glimpse of his familiar glam Italian style, of floral patterns or the colourful carpets he formerly laid on the floor, the designer was unravelling a very different story. Taking as inspiration the fluid dreamscape that unfolded in the movie "Russian Ark" (2002), Valli said that he was inspired by its images and tones.
"I always loved this movie and I thought that now was the right moment — to give the show a new proportion and a new meaning," the designer said. "You go through different rooms and different sections, moments and moods - all in one sweep. First is the winter garden — no grass, no flowers, so everything in the show is frozen, even the lace and fur. I love the fragility and lightness."
Jewelled embellishments and crystal buttons and fastenings for discreet sparkle featured throughout the Giambattista Valli Couture show
A selection of ethereal looks in pleated silk chiffon made a poetic appearance alongside the more dramatic pieces in silk-satin
He explained this to me before the show opened with a violinist accompanying an opening parade of light dresses, short or long, with raised waists and the sleeve puffed with toile or gauze — even when the outfit was a summer coat or in pink fur embroidered with coral beading.
Valli said that he was interested in Russian artists and what inspired them, but the show seemed more of a sweet idyll, expressed in frothy skirts, those full shoulders and skirts that grew to vast proportions for the final puffball gowns.
Halfway between a romantic and a realist, early on in his career Giambattista understood that there was a new world of young, international clients to fill the front rows as they dated, married and went on vacation together, creating a new society audience.
But this show seemed to go deeper into the designer's dream world, with clothes that were particularly light and delicate with crystal buttons, embroidery and Buccellatti jewels.
But could it be an Autumn/Winter collection with such light, balletic fabrics and the Russian fairytale feeling? Giambattista Valli was also one of the first to recognise a pan-seasonal world, whether from climate change or the geographical stretch of high-fashion clients.
"We dress up in winter, but some clients only have summer, so it is nice to have silk and fur in the same collection," the designer said.
This collection was primarily of light evening clothes, which included draped silk dresses, falling asymmetrically across the body. As much as those puffy ball gowns, they showed the potential for a wide client base for a designer whose collection is indisputably haute couture, with a highly romantic twist this season.
Alberta Ferretti: limited edition
"I always start with a dream," Alberta Ferretti said. And this season's "demi-couture" collection, destined for the red carpet, or at least after-dark events, offered a dream of the sea - not its sandy beaches and splashing waves, but something deeper.
Her inspiration was from the ocean floor, with a suggestion of waves, shells and the seabed as decoration — all applied to airy and ultra-light fabrics. The silken fringes poured like a shower of water over the body, delicate in neutral shades from cream to beige, deepening to a watery green or blue. By the time the colour palette reached a deep turquoise, the wave patterns became stronger.
But the more the embellishment, the less the dress, so that silvered embroideries were worked on semi-transparent chiffon or lace. Other ideas rising up from the ocean depths were thicker embroideries with a much darker base.
The collection was titled "Limited Edition", which for other designers means "Demi Couture". As I understand it, that means that a dress can be chosen by a client and then adapted in colour or decoration, but is not made-to-measure to their exact body shape. Let's just say that these Alberta Ferretti dresses, exquisitely made, are destined to be selected by a stylist and offered to stars for a Big Night Out.