Giambattista Valli

Salma Hayek was backstage in a plunging red top beneath her black coat. ‘It was amazing, beautiful,’ she told Giambattista Valli, wrapping her arms around him straight after his spring / summer 2013 couture show at the Italian Embassy in Paris. Her favourite piece, she said, was the ‘princess dress with the belt’. Talking of princesses, aside from those possibly sitting in the audience – you can’t move for high society at a Valli show – the romantic gowns in this collection were indeed the stuff a fairytale princess might wear. And judging by the many rounds of applause, what a real life princess or Russian oligarch’s wife or society hostess might wear too. ‘What is the meaning of couture?’ This is the question Valli said he had posed himself, implying that only the dreamiest, most fantastical creations made with thread as fine as angels’ wings, might do this season. ‘I wanted to separate my more industrially designed ready-to-wear from my couture,’ he said, adding. ‘It’s the kind of fantasy couture I dreamed of making when I was a student.’ He took flora and fauna as his theme – the third couturier to do so today, following Raf Simons at Dior and Alexis Mabille – and created some of the prettiest dresses you are ever likely to see. Starting out with daywear – ocelot and tiger fur patterns, all printed, embroidered or bejewelled in black and white – it all looked striking and, this being Valli, sexy, too. Then came the dreamy stuff: powder pink and white, with the occasional burst of sunflower yellow, Valli’s cocktail dresses continued to stand away from the body like a flower bud. The loveliest were made entirely of feathers, stitched in flowerbeds of miniscule blooms; they looked as light as thistledown. Some were thigh high – geared no doubt to his core couture client base whom he described as 28 to 38-year-olds. It was these young women, he said, who had inspired the styling of his show. ‘I wanted the models to look real, like my younger clients with their hair down, fresh and cool, just how they would wear it.