“Why wild gardens? Why do they call them that?” Giambattista Valli asked backstage, pointing to a wall of photographs of gardens created “in a spontaneous way: controlled, but very beautiful”.
Those words seemed like an echo of the Spring 2018 Haute Couture collection, which showed the designer flower with investment from the Pinault family. This lush new situation could be felt in the venue – not, as last season, in the courtyard of the Petit Palais in Paris, but inside the noble building, which allowed the swish of tulle across the tiled floor and the contrast of crunchy lace with the faded patterns of the historic interior.
“The problem with fashion right now is that it is all hoodies – alternative, grungy – but there are other people who love beauty,” Valli said. “I always think and work around beauty; not so edgy, not so avant garde. Somebody has to do it, and I love it!”
The designer was referring to the phalanxes of women in the expansive area, many of whom were relatively young. They reminded a confused fashion world that true haute couture is a relationship with its clients.
The show opened with a cascade of white, and then black, lace – not too froufrou, but with a trailing ribbon here, or a line-up of lacy leaves or tiny flowers embedded in embroidery there – all suggesting wildness in this fashion garden.
The designer continued his soliloquy to explain the “choreography” of the garden goddess, with her draping and shaping, before the show ended with puffs of colorful tulle.
“I love this idea of perfection in craftsmanship, but also the freshness of something wild,” Valli explained. “The first part is about textures, then you see the colors; there is macramé and different kinds of organza, and the idea of a lady walking through the garden, with sparkly jewelry and flowers. And then we have the art of my atelier, working with all this draping, getting the silhouette. All this is kind of written as a music, as a lullaby, a play with a tone of the colors, like music.”
This potentially sugary view of fashion might seem a dismissal of the turmoil in the modern world, not least in the current problems facing women about the language of clothes in relation to male aggression. But Valli has the strength and skill to present timeless prettiness with a wild edge and make it believable – at least in the show’s moment in the sun.