Giambattista Valli offered a double unveiling on Monday night in Paris: His fall 2023 haute couture collection — and his spanking new headquarters, a stone’s throw from the Opéra Garnier.
Guests were sprawled across several salons, the chairs hugging the walls and leaving loads of carpet space for his lavish tulle ball gowns, which were of reasonable proportions this time.
“We wanted to do the show in the space that is going to be the studio,” he said backstage. “It’s nice to have that sort of intimacy, because I think it’s very much what couture is about — the privilege of something private… I think privacy is the ultimate luxury, more than ever.”
This smooth, confident show felt a little bit like a reset as Valli homed in on narrow columns sprouting meringue-like volumes; languid chiffon dresses with drifting, smoke-like trains, and grand evening confections with bulbous skirts, including one in crystal-studded lace.
Valli said his goal was to demonstrate “the modernity of classics,” and his mood board included black-and-white photos of seamstresses at work in their white smocks at couture salons. Some images were vintage, and others were taken recently in Valli’s atelier, but you couldn’t really tell which was which, given that haute couture’s rules and methods haven’t really changed.
“It’s about savoir-faire, the art of the atelier, and the way you push the boundaries of the atelier — working on the volumes, on the draping,” he said.
After hearing that, you did wonder what plumps Valli’s outsized pouf sleeves, or his giant bows, mounted on the back of a slinky black gown like angel wings, or ringing the hips of an austere, cement-gray column.
Those telegraphed grandeur, while white silk spilling out of a bustier and sliding off shoulders spoke of romance. Most of the models wore a version of the velvet Venetian slippers known as friulane, which gave the dresses a more contemporary elan.
The designer typically enlists one of his “Valli girls” to close the show, the honor going this time to Princess Maria-Olympia of Greece and Denmark, whose pink gown suggested some boundary-pushing in the atelier: The skirt’s pleated tulle ruffles had been zhushed into a graduated harlequin pattern that was dazzling.