Giambattista Valli is a busy man. The Rome-born, Paris-based couturier creates two couture collections a year, along with ready-to-wear four times annually. On top of that, the designer recently announced the launch of an activewear capsule collection. But he isn’t complaining. “My work is my life,” he tells Hello! Canada over the phone from his atelier in Paris. “Luxury today is having privilege. Privilege for me is to have a passion and to work. I don’t see it as work.”
That boundless passion and work ethic has made Giambattista one of the most respected fashion houses today. On the runway and on the red carpet, the designer’s gowns are instantly recognizable from their tiers of frothy tulle, whimsical shapes and delicate embellishments. Equally recognizable are his A-list clients, from Julianne Moore to Celine Dion.
With his inimitable career and star power, it comes as no surprise that Toronto's fashion crowd flocked to the King Edward Hotel in November to see some of Giambattista's creations in action at Haute Affair – a charitable runway show in support of The HBC Foundation, Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy and Darling Home for Kids. The event proved that fashion and philanthropy are always in style.
Here, Giambattista reflects on what it means to be a designer today.
THE VALLI WOMAN
She’s ageless, in the sense that I can dress people like Bianca Brandolini – she’s in her 30s – and Lee Radziwill, who’s in her 80s. She doesn’t need to dress as a billboard or as an advertising campaign to represent. The opposite. The moment she wears one of my dresses, the dress does look like mine but, still, she has to own it. I love somebody who has a personal interpretation, is the leader of her own style, somebody who is totally comfortable with herself, with the good and the bad.
ROME VS. PARIS
The past 20 years I’ve lived in Paris, so I feel very much at home here. But at the same time, when I go to Rome, it’s amazing ... It’s like you go back, there’s this “click!” and you have all the memories, the feelings back [from when you were] 18, 19, 20. I have all my oldest friends and I feel extremely comfortable there. Rome is where everything is outside, on the street, on the square, under the sun ... everything is shouted, passionate, extroverted. Paris is much more Truffaut – that kind of mood, introspection and melancholy – totally the opposite.
Inspiration, for me, is just about curiosity. I can get inspiration from everything, everywhere, in every moment – the problem of somebody having too many inspirations, too much going on in the brain. That’s why I do couture, ready-to-wear, Giamba, everything, so I can express. I have all these expressions and I can drop them somewhere. If not, leaving them inside me feels very crowded.
I like sometimes to leave Paris, even to just go to Versailles for a weekend in the countryside. When it’s winter and cold in Paris, we’re very lucky that in two and a half hours, we’re in super sunny Marrakesh ... In December, I always go to Positano because it’s my obsession.
Your prime minister – I’m the biggest fan of him. He’s my hero ... He’s probably one of the best representations of a political man, somebody [who’ll hear] the voices of his people. I really [have] respect for him.
Celine Dion was spotted all over the city during haute couture Paris Fashion Week this past summer, but she made the biggest impression at Giambattista Valli’s show, where she enthusiastically responded to his fashion creations as they came down the runway. “She is really my biggest fan,” says Giambattista. “She’s the most amazing favourite person for me to have in the first row. She’s so amazing because she really, really enjoys it. It was refreshing because people are so politically correct in the show and everybody seems to be bored. [She] was such a huge example of somebody really enjoying and not faking and not hiding. Because when you do a fashion show, of course it’s a business, but you really do it because you want people to enjoy it. We would love to have that kind of response every season.”