Instead of an elaborate show, Giambattista Valli staged a stripped back presentation for his Spring-Summer 2020 Haute Couture collection in the Jeu de Paume, a dedicated exhibition space in Paris. There was nothing exceptional about it –  except the couture, in its purest form – against a whitish backdrop.

But when the couture is this magnificent, the bells and whistles that typically accompany couture seem all but redundant. Words alone would serve it a great injustice, Valli’s superb knack at creating the impossible dress or ruffles so robust they need to be seen to be believed. There were seemingly infinite trains of tulle, balls of sheeny taffeta puff, floral tapestry embellished then shredded, flocked and feathered gowns and simple, sublime drapery. Faces were cloaked in theatrical feathered masks, adding another layer of intrigue and drama, as too the quirky fish-eye it was lensed through, an “homage to Avedon and Penn”.

But perhaps most interesting is that the exhibition is open to the public, a deliberate move by Valli to eliminate the elitism inherent in the world of haute couture. “Sometimes the fashion world is too exclusive and sometimes it’s nice to be inclusive,” he told Sarah Mower backstage.

Intimacy of the greatest fashion kind, to be able to witness Valli’s exquisite pieces and gulp in their beauty is a rare opportunity few get to enjoy in the fashion world – and one that is lost in a traditional show format. Up close with Giambattista Valli? What joy.


All imagery via Instagram, @giambattistavalliparis