Giambattista Valli’s SS11 collection proves that the leopards can change its spots. At the centre of Valli’s collection is an inventive and striking use of leopard print that brought a distinctive and refreshing use to one of the signature motifs of the season. Used as counterpoint to contrast colours introduced in modernist angularity, the overall effect is one that reinvents the expectation for a current trend, yet is somehow entirely in keeping with the 1960’s silhouette of the dresses; think vintage Courrèges on safari or the young Paco Rabanne blaxploiting Afrocentricity.
Valli’s collection is a curious combination of certain trends that have been prevalent during this Paris Fashion Week and vehemently doing his own thing or, maybe more accurately, doing his own thing with some of the overarching ideas that appear to be in the ether.
It’s not that the 1960’s silhouette that defined Valli’s collection is absent elsewhere – it actually appears in numerous collections for SS11- but whereas others have chosen to layer the angular modernist mini tunic dresses over leggings or trousers, Giambattista Valli offers them as dresses in their own right. What’s interesting is that many garments in his collection have been developed in a way that foregrounds the gladiatorial look that has been displayed by other designers in their own collections through different means.
In fact, one might even say that this is a collection that reconsiders the classical by pitching it somewhere between what a contemporary audience associates with the ancient world and other centuries’ notions of ‘the classical’. In Giambattista Valli’s SS11 collection there is a certain axis between classical references as they have been picked up in everything from Hollywood’s designs for Roman epics through to sci-fi television schlock in the mode of Xena: Warrior Princess and the eighteenth century’s idea of ‘the classical’, as denoted in the subtle prints that appear to be based on Baroque or antique decorative patterns. By combining both of these elements in one collection and cleverly removing them from their usual context – for example, by contrasting them with the sharp modernism of the 1960’s- all these familiar forms become fresh and revitalised.
Interestingly enough, whilst numerous commentators noticed Valli’s persistent use of a 1960’s mini silhouette, the collection is not without numerous floor length garments. Whilst only one or two of these use the flowing, spliced skirts of many other SS11 collections, many of Valli’s long dresses and combinations have a wonderful mix of columnar angularity and volume about them; imagine Hubert Givenchy designing for Audrey Hepburn in a neo-classical mood.
Similarly, whereas Valli’s collection is notable for its bright strongly contrasting colour palettes, it’s not that he has ignored the pale and light neutral palettes that have been so prominent in many key collections. Rather, he combines the neutral flesh tones and sandy beige with bright orange or acidic green. Furthermore, there are, indeed, many looks in this collection that harness the all-white or single pale colour approach that has been a key trend. The difference is that Valli introduces a sense of contrast simply by layering decorative detail over transparency, sometimes in the same pale colour, sometimes in a bright contrast.