Giambattista Valli and H&M in Designer Collaboration
Haute couture master, fashion world darling and expert at creating memory-piercing designs. Meet Giambattista Valli and find out what to expect from this year’s most anticipated collaboration.
The news is finally out: Giambattista Valli, internationally renowned as dressmaker to some of the world’s most glamorous stars, including Rihanna, Amal Clooney, Ariana Grande and Emma Stone, is the latest designer to collaborate with H&M.
Through his designs for H&M, Valli will bring his unique vision of style to a wider audience — including, for the first time, a men’s collection. Everyone will get the chance to dress like a superstar in Valli’s eclectic mix of sharpness and frills.
A POPULAR SUPPLIER OF FASHION MAGIC
The ebullient Giambattista Valli, known as Giamba to his close friends, is an unstoppable force in fashion and a veritable workaholic. He belongs to the highest school of fashion makers: those who believe that half the magic is created in the atelier, while the other half comes from the clients themselves and the infinitely personal ways they bring the clothes to life.
Suitably, Valli likes to call himself, in French, a fournisseur, which means a provider. The fact that Valli is deeply loved and passionately followed by a far-reaching, cross-cultural clientele from a range of glitzy backgrounds proves the efficiency of his approach to style.
VALLI’S GLITTERING FASHION CAREER
Giambattista Valli was born and raised in Rome. His first deeply formative work experience was alongside master couturier Roberto Capucci, an artist working with fabric, followed by a long stint at Fendi, where he was creative director for the influential Fendissime line.
Next, Giambattista decamped to Milan to work at Krizia until, called by Emanuel Ungaro, he moved to Paris in the late 90s to forge a singular path within the celebrated Parisian house. He eventually went solo and opened the Giambattista Valli fashion house, launching his namesake collection in 2005.
Today Valli calls Paris home, while still remaining true to his Roman roots. A couturier and a bon vivant surrounded by an ever-growing entourage of aristocratic “Valli girls,” Giambattista is quite private about his personal life, but very articulate when it comes to expressing his professional visions and inspirations.
We met Giambattista Valli in Paris at the Maison Valli, which is housed in rooms that used to belong to another famed Italian expat: Jean Baptiste Lully, court musician to Louis XIV.
HOW WOULD YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO THE H&M PUBLIC?
“My work speaks for itself, so I wouldn’t add much. I like to think of myself as an accomplice to some special moments. My creations are easy to wear and easy to interpret. More than dresses, I see them as a means to create a dialog with my clients. I design for a living body, not for a lifeless mannequin.”
I aim at creating a distinctive silhouette, because a silhouette will pierce the memory.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
“Inspiration is a matter of curiosity: literally anything can light a spark in me, from a landscape to a piece of music. I am drawn to many different things. For example, at random: Mina, India, Antonio Lopez, Bianca Jagger, Jane Birkin, Louise Bourgeois, Francis Bacon, Nan Goldin, Federico Fellini, Andy Warhol, MTV and Positano, but also Arte Povera, Eva Ionesco and fairy tales. It makes for a lot of contrasts – I like having an element of tension in whatever I do.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR VISION OF FASHION?
“My work is a mix of strictness and frivolity meant to glorify the beauty of women. There's no way to deny it: pivotal experiences inform the way you work. For me, fashion is about signs, lines and textures, just like my first boss Roberto Capucci taught me.”
“I aim at creating a distinctive silhouette, because a silhouette will pierce the memory. Decoration, on the other hand, is just a souvenir that fades away quickly. This said, my work is twofold: on the one side, it is unremittingly sharp, just like a line traced in pencil; on the other, it’s impassioned and frilly, like a flower bouquet or a bunch of feathers. Emmanuel Ungaro was my teacher when it comes to flou.”
THE FASHION YOU MAKE IS SO DRENCHED IN A SPIRIT OF COUTURE AND SOPHISTICATION. HOW DID THIS COLLABORATION WITH H&M HAPPEN?
“I was contacted by H&M unexpectedly, and immediately reacted with enthusiasm. My world and H&M are supposed to be at odds, but that is just a misconception. At its core, my work is about a certain kind of woman undefined by age or status, and now also about a certain kind of man. H&M allows me to reach them on a global scale, which is great.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM IT AND WHAT DO YOU WANT THE PUBLIC TO GET FROM IT?
“I accepted this project because I felt it was the right moment to share my vision with a new audience. I want H&M customers to get access to the Valli dream and make whatever they want out of it. What I am offering them is a style, not fashion: something with a deeper meaning and a longer life. There won’t be throwaway pieces in the collection, but items customers will want to keep in their wardrobes for a long time. The Giambattista Valli x H&M collection allows me to bring beauty to everyone.”
WAS IT DIFFICULT TO TRANSLATE YOUR VERY HIGH STANDARDS IN TERMS OF FABRICS AND EXECUTION INTO H&M’S PARAMETERS?
“It was not, honestly. I am used to intense and exacting atelier work, and I have very high standards when it comes to the quality of my creations, which I always personally check; but I have to admit I was the first to be surprised when we received samples for the fittings. H&M was able to get the same effect. They did everything wonderfully, even my signature multi-tier tulle gowns.”
AS A MATTER OF FACT, TULLE GOWNS ARE PART OF THE H&M COLLECTION, AREN’T THEY?
“The gowns are the appetizer, indeed. They will be in the first drop released as the collection launches, in conjunction with the amfAR Gala at Cannes Film Festival. You know, I love dressing women for the red carpet, whether it’s real or imagined.”
IS THERE A THEME TO THE COLLECTION?
“I conceived the line-up as a repertoire or a vocabulary: a summary of my style made up of pieces anyone can interpret as they wish. There’s no real narrative, but there is a sense of fluidity between menswear and womenswear.”
THIS IS THE VERY FIRST TIME YOU’VE OFFERED MENSWEAR. HOW DID YOU APPROACH IT?
“Normally, it’s women who adopt pieces from the masculine wardrobe, so I thought my men could just pick things up from the women’s wardrobes. The animal and flower prints, as well as the sequins and the transparencies, are just the same. In fact, pieces from the men’s collection can easily be worn by women: I encourage customers to do so, because everything is meant to be exchanged.”
“My style is timeless, because it is suspended between past and present; ageless, because it is a philosophy that knows no boundaries; effortless, because it’s fluid, spontaneous, free and totally unconscious. Now, it’s also genderless.”
It’s all about opening up the Valli style and encouraging customers to make it their own, as a total look or in bits and pieces.
THE VALLI GIRLS WERE AN EARLY PHENOMENON WHEN IT COMES TO CELEBRITIES AND DESIGNERS. HOW DID IT ALL HAPPEN?
“In a very natural way, which is why I guess it all took off so quickly and so authentically. Women responded right away to my work because I offered them something they could not find anywhere else.”
“A group of friends led by Bianca Brandolini D'Adda soon gathered around me and became my muses. Lee Radziwill was another great supporter. I would have loved to have her as a testimonial for this collaboration. Dialog is very important to me, and that’s what I nurture with my muses. Personality and freedom is what I admire in all of them.”
WHAT ARE THE KEY PIECES IN THE COLLECTION, FOR HIM AND FOR HER?
“It’s the span of the offering and the variety of pieces — from dresses to perfect jackets, riding coats and cargo pants to sweatshirts, sunglasses and bijoux – which really makes me proud. It’s all about opening up the Valli style and encouraging customers to make it their own, as a total look or in bits and pieces.”
HOW WOULD YOU RECOMMEND CUSTOMERS INTERPRET THE COLLECTION?
“Freely. My work is just half of the whole thing. The rest is up to the clients.”
YOU ARE OPENING UP TO A WIDER AUDIENCE. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THEM TO GET FROM IT?
“Beauty. That’s it.”
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE MESSAGE?
“Be passionate and have fun, because fashion is all about positive feelings.”
ONE LAST QUESTION: YOU’RE ALWAYS WEARING A STRING OF PEARLS. WHY?
“It is my lucky charm; I cannot say more.”
The Giambattista Valli x H&M collection is divided into two drops, a first limited edition drop available in selected stores and online starting May 25 and a second, full drop, arriving on November 7.