“I can’t tell you a favorite; these are all the favorites of Giambattista Valli,” proclaims the Roman designer, referring to both himself and his eponymous couture house. He waves magnanimously at the racks of clothing in his sun-drenched, wood-paneled office in the center of Paris. “I wanted to do something exciting, with an honest DNA,” he continues with Italian bravura. And yet, for all his signature florals, pearls, and lace, it is Giambattista Valli as never seen before. This is the Parisian house offering couture codes at high street prices. The 19th designer collaboration for H&M, Valli is the first couturier to receive the call. “I was flattered to be chosen, though, I was surprised because we are the opposite,” he says of the two labels. “But, opposites can resemble each other,” he winks.
“Never underestimate the power of a dress,” smiles Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M creative advisor. The two brands walked a delicate tightrope to ensure that there was “enough frou-frou” as desired by Valli, while remaining aligned with the price point of the high street giant. Johansson adds that Valli was meticulous regarding the cuts. “Couture, after all, is about the silhouette,” she says.
“H&M’s clients aren’t mine,” states Valli. “I wanted to know, what did the brand anticipate?”
“H&M’s clients aren’t mine,” states Valli. “I wanted to know, what did the brand anticipate?” He was astounded to learn just how far-reaching his vision and aesthetic were. The news dropped during the Cannes film festival, on the grassy lawn of the amfAR gala. Influencer Chiara Ferragni joined Kendall Jenner alongside Valli and Johansson to announce the collaboration. The limited- edition pre-drop, available from the time of the announcement, centered on tiered dresses in macaron colors, while the entire collection will offer clothing for men and women from day to night, from the street to a gala, and all the accessories in-between. “Unlike other H&M collaborations, we were able to get the pre- drop online and it arrived the same day,” says Kuwaiti writer and entrepreneur Nouriah Al Shatti. “I ordered the fuchsia dress and it arrived in a huge box. It’s pretty, puffy – it’s a statement,” she says.
Along with dresses, separates, and accessories, Valli challenged himself by sketching his first men’s collection. “I was thinking about his philosophy,” he comments of the person he had in mind when he designed clothes rendered with what could be considered traditionally women’s accents – florals, pearls, lace – at least in the 21st century. “He is curious, nonchalant, and comfortable with himself.” Around his own neck is a string of natural pearls, purchased in India and once belonging to a maharaja. “I’ve worn this for 15 years,” he comments. “Pearls on a black dress, that is so banal… But on a man, with my ‘little black dress,’” – he laughs, looking down at his sports T-shirt – “it can look revolutionary!”
Valli hopes the collection will cater to women of every generation – there are tailored pieces in the form of blazers and bohemia outerwear, cargo pants, and leather pants, but also miniskirts, asymmetric ruffle dresses, blouses, and cardigans with flower embroideries, and even a hoodie. The Instagram-friendly accessories – lace bow booties, flat slippers, and animal print scarves and logo stockings suggest they will be the first to fly off shelves. In the sustainable spirit of couture – to be worn time and again. Giambattista Valli X H&M will be available in -store and online from November 7.
Originally published in the September 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia