An Italian designer himself, Giambattista Valli is constantly torn between his homeland and his current love, Paris. He’s been working in the French capital for well over 20 years now but goes frequently to his native Rome to pick up influences.
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When Italy loosened its restrictions, there, the naked streets – awaiting the return of tourists – gave him a rare opportunity to connect with the core of his hometown. “It’s the only moment you’re going to catch what Rome really is”, he said. Visiting the quiet villas and monuments, he could feel the Roman-Parisian culture clash within his own heart. It made him think of a like-minded spirit from another time: Pauline Bonaparte Borghese. Borghese was an imperial French princess and sister of Napoleon. Borghese was married into the Roman aristocracy, becoming an Italian Duchess. While Valli and Borghese’s stories are not exactly parallel, their cross-pollination of sorts between Parisian and Roman cultures yielded a playful blend of femininity in Valli’s clothing with Borghese as muse.
“She brought a new attitude to Rome. She was getting naked with super comfort. It was very scandalous at the time”, Valli said. “When Paulina arrived in Rome, everybody was very conservative, very tied up in the pope and Italian tradition. She arrived and got naked and confident and didn’t care”.
Giambattista Valli’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection was all about channeling Borghese’s boundary-pushing energy through various aesthetic elements. Pops of black, sheer florals, and many, many terrific minidresses, frothy and gossamer evening gowns, and neat yet body-hugging tweed suits that seemed conceived at the fantasy intersection of Rue Cambon and the Villa Borghese made up Valli’s sixty looks for fall and winter. Refined silhouettes were adorned with dramatic sleeves, playful prints, and dark embellishments. The scandalous nature of Borghese was channeled through cheeky glimpses at undergarments or bare skin by the use of sheer fabric placement.
Valli said his mission was to find “the perfect balance between the two cultures”, and this was clearly a collection of the independent woman who knows who she is and where she’s going.
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