The High Street Gets Haute

Couturier Giambattista Valli turns our style fantasies into reality
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The High Street Gets Haute

“The attitude of a Valli Girl is just jumping out of the shower, putting on a dress or a sequin suit and immediately going wherever, without caring about their hair or make-up,” Italian designer Giambattista Valli tells Grazia Middle East. “The collection is tapping into a kind of spontaneity that I love – it’s to be rule-less and season-less, in a way. Everyone can interpret the collection how they wish.” While we’re unconvinced that Kendall Jenner went straight from shower to shrubbery with zero effort in between, we’re all for a collection that is at once functional, accessible and unequivocally magnificent. Enter: Giambattista Valli x H&M.

Known as the dressmaker to some of the modern world’s most stylish names (think Olivia Palermo, Diane Kruger, and Rihanna), Giambattista Valli has been presenting ready-to-wear and haute couture collections on the Paris runways for nearly 15 years. After a successful first tease of the Giambattista Valli x H&M pre-drop in May at Cannes, November sees the two powerhouses back with the main release.

“We chose Giambattista Valli for this year’s H&M designer collaboration because he is the undisputed master of couture, with an amazing ability to create strong silhouettes,” explains Ann-Sofie Johansson, Creative Advisor for H&M. “We were drawn to how he speaks to the modern woman and man as much as to the craftsmanship and beauty of his designs.” The campaign, photographed by iconic duo Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, features a star-studded line-up including Kendall Jenner, Chiara Ferragni and singer H.E.R., all posing in a gilded mansion (which is almost as dreamy as the clothes themselves).

Giambattista Valli can count Chiara Ferragni, Kendall Jenner, and the Grammy award-winning songstress H.E.R. among his campaign stars

The collection borrows from a plethora of Valli’s design codes, including all-engulfing silhouettes, modern cuts and dazzling details. The designer refers to it as an abecedario – meaning ‘alphabet’ – of style. So which is his favoured letter? “I love every single piece of the collection; to me they feel like unique collector pieces rather than throw-away garments,” Valli muses. “They are timeless and meant to be kept in one’s wardrobe, to mix and match to the customer’s personal style, embracing their personality.”

Much like his red-carpet gowns, the collection is littered with fairy-tale visions and odes to femininity, with intermittent strokes of the cool and contemporary – tulle for days, palettes typically led by blush pinks, soft blues and a medley of sherbet tones, and some of the prettiest botanical prints to hit the high street this decade. And then, out of nowhere, heady hits of grunge hit the scene through mod boots, bleached denim and decadent costume jewellery. “The Valli Girls and Valli Boys are vastly independent. They don’t follow any trends and they’re very nomadic in their sense of style. They are eclectic. The Valli People adapt to any situation in such a beautiful way because they are comfortable with themselves,” declares the designer.

And that sentiment certainly rings true throughout the campaign in which American celebrity and model Kendall Jenner dons two suitably It-status looks. The first, a cherry red tulle dress that graduates from a thigh-grazing length to metres long and complete with black ankle boots. The second, an update on the LBD, is embellished with candy-coloured sequins and swirls. Similarly, Italian digital entrepreneur and fashion designer Chiara Ferragni models a plush pink princess silhouette dress laden with delicate florals, while her signature tattoos and dark eye make-up offer a suitably grunge twist. “No matter where in the world my muses are from, they are free-spirited, unrestricted from conventions and they respond to the concepts of ageless, timeless and effortless. By creating, I only do 50 per of the job – the other half is up to the customer wearing my clothes, which need to be filled by their personalities, their individual intellect and their independent interpretation of style,” Valli observes.

“When we finally had all the samples in the same room, I was pleasantly surprised to see how the high-low mix of partywear and more streetwear-inspired pieces looked so effortlessly connected and stylish together. It’s all definitely from the same world and just took my breath away,” offers Johansson. What comes as possibly an even greater surprise for the Giamba gang is the introduction of menswear – envision shirts and knitwear emblazoned with florals, beaded jumpers and leopard-print sweatsuits. “I approached it in reverse. Instead of having women borrow pieces from the men’s wardrobe, as usually happens, I explored the idea of men taking pieces, patterns and fabrics from the women’s wardrobe. The choice of baby pink as the basic colour – the simplest T-shirt in the collection is pink, not white – says it all,” he notes.

The Valli Boy and Valli Girl is a cosmopolitan globetrotter, decidedly whimsical and eccentric, with an astute eye for style and an eager eye for disruption. We can’t wait to see them stomp from the high street
to the runway, and back again.

Giambattista Valli x H&M will be exclusively available at The Dubai Mall, Mall Of The Emirates and Yas Mall on 7 November 2019

Photos: Supplied