Why you'll be sure to create waves in Giambattista Valli's latest creation

Giambattista Valli is known for his party dresses, so it's hardly surprising that he's partial to the odd ruffle. In the former Ungaro designer's hands, however, they never look like a decorative afterthought, or a cheap frill, so to speak. Instead, his grand ripples of fabric have what he describes as a, "structural, architectural quality, making a very flattering frame for a woman's face".

Their usual suggestion of frivolity - think clowns or jesters - is balanced by the solemnity and ethereality of a choirboy; an effect enhanced by the monastic monochrome. This evening cape, as well as the ruffled collars in his autumn/winter collection, was actually inspired by the painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt, which depicts a group of beruffled men watching an autopsy. Valli's collections combine eclectic sources of inspiration with a surprisingly systematic creative process. He starts with three categories of idea - structure and architecture, art, and stylish women - and allows the three to mingle and infuse his imagination. His autumn/winter collection was inspired by the architect Le Corbusier, Rembrandt and the sultry Mexican actress Maria Felix. Previous muses have included Verushka and Peggy Guggenheim. As the Italian designer points out, "they are very different women, but all style leaders.'

Valli's customers are as illustrious, and diverse, as the women who have inspired his collections. When he showed his first own-label collection in 2005, after leaving Ungaro where he was Art Director, socialite Lee Radziwill and actress Diane Kruger were both seated in the front row, while Dita Von Teese modelled for him. His celebrity following has helped his rapid trajectory since he left Ungaro, and many of his clients come from his time at the label. He has dressed the likes of Queen Rania of Jordan, Mary Kate Olsen and Sarah Jessica Parker, and acknowledges that, "it's very important to dress celebrities", firstly, because many of his famous clients, such as Victoria Beckham and Penelope Cruz are friends, and secondly because in Valli's view, "they are real women, not models. They have real proportions. Some are tall, some short, some thinner some roundish".

Famous faces also guarantee headlines. After Victoria Beckham , or Lady Victoria, as Valli jokingly calls her, wore a pair of skyscraper Valli shoes to a party thrown by Tom Cruise they received hundreds of calls the next day with people anxious to find out where they could buy them. They were named the Victoria shoe when, during Beckham's recent "she came, she posed, she shopped", tour of Paris, she dropped into Valli's studio, who, as he excitedly recounts, said, "Oh my God these shoes are really Victoria". In return she has described Valli as "one of the most exciting designers around".

Valli is the ultimate modern designer in that he has managed to combine red-carpet appeal, classical skill, modernism and commerciality. His label's turnover has tripled in 2 years, and he has established 102 worldwide points of sale. He has designed dresses specifically for far-eastern women - Japan is his second biggest market - taking into account their proportions and tastes.

Proportion is a key element of Valli's look, both in terms of women's shape, and his use of fabric. Much of Valli's signature use of volume has a hint of vintage Balenciaga. A grey silk evening dress with attached cape is reminiscent of a 1960s' Balenciaga day dress with a draped back.

According to Valli's creative system, volume would constitute the structure, and when it comes to the decorative stage he is able to redefine the character of a motif and make it his own, as his interpretation of the ruffle shows. In his autumn/winter collection a black cocktail dress is ringed with stiff white ruffles that encircle the body like rings of ivory vertebrae, soft mini-ruffles give a bodice a feathery finish, like a bird that has puffed out its chest, and black ribbon loops resemble a spiky exoskeleton. There is an integrity to his designs - nothing appears stuck on or extraneous. The collection featured sleek, tailored trouser-suits and classic evening coats, but as per his reputation, the cocktail dresses stood out. Nevertheless, Valli doesn't consider them to be the pinnacle of his collection, although he says in his infectiously upbeat Roman voice, "it's very important that the woman I design for feels that I had a good time making this dress. I like the idea of dressing women for happy moments". He is a big fan of his long time supporter Lee Radziwill's book Happy Times.

Valli's eponymous label might still be very new, but the designer has had plenty of experience within the fashion industry. Born in Rome in 1966, he studied at the European Design Institute and Saint Martin's College of Art and Design. His first job in the fashion industry was working in Public Relations for Roberto Capucci, before moving to the design department. He went on to design for Fendi and Krizia, and in 1997 he became the art director at Ungaro. He eventually left the fashion house because he, "designed for many other labels for a long time. I wanted to talk my language not translate others'.'

Valli has been tipped for top jobs at Valentino and Halston, and he says working for an established fashion house would be something he would consider in the future, because he admires the way labels such as Valentino keep their signature style intact. For now, however, he is enjoying his creative liberty too much to compromise it. He explains 'it's almost like someone who gets his freedom and then doesn't want to marry again. I want to taste it a little bit.'

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent