Style reporter Amy Verner is covering the major shows at Paris Couture Fashion Week this week. Follow her on Twitter @amyverner.
The funny thing about Giambattista Valli is that his ready-to-wear clothes already have the trappings of couture: luxurious fabrications, over-the-top volume, technical mastery and breathtaking beauty. So even though this was his first couture presentation, his approach to fashion has long been the dress rehearsal for this major moment.
Tellingly and despite the special occasion, Valli wanted an intimate gathering for his couture show; there was one row of seats down a long gallery bathed in natural light and c'est tout. A sensual, almost mystical song set the mood, followed by voices in various languages discussing the importance of protection and declaring: "You're amazing; you're crazy; instant gold," against a back-beat. Sure, whatever.
In a word: exquisite. In two: playful. This combination made for a sleeveless short cocktail number with his signature chiffon tiered skirt - this time resembling an artistic blackberry and what he has dubbed "angel skin," which is really just elegantly shirred chiffon. There was evident subtext behind the trompe l'oeil skirt that was meant to look like an atelier smock tied around the waist (complete with GBV monogram): Let's recognize all the hands that apply the lily of the valley-esque organza bows. And the ostrich-feather-embroidered black silk evening gown with black-lace veil could have been interpreted as mourning attire; more likely it was a soignée shout-out to women in the Middle East.
As the dresses became fuller - some with layers of ruffled tulle, others with fluid silk trains - the more they would faintly glide over the guests' feet, and fortunate were the people who could feel Valli's supreme fabrics kiss their skin. Valli continues to be a fan of feathers and affixes them in a manner that creates angelic lightness, which help balance out the clusters of lacquer blossoms.
Valli has given careful thought to what would make his customers want to spring for couture, and he's delivered a collection that is realistically wearable (price notwithstanding). It's not a huge leap to imagine Kate Middleton in the cocktail-length coral shirred dress with tulle shoulders, while society types with a hankering for haute can feel good about splurging on something that will see the light of day - or glow of night - more than once.