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- Italian fashion designer
Dubbed “Love,” his capsule of 16 diverse wedding dresses, plus one sharply tailored pantsuit, are to be sold via trunk shows in the U.S. starting Sept. 9 at Bloomingdale’s in New York, followed by Capitol in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 16; Capitol in Brentwood, Calif., on Sept. 23, and Neiman Marcus in Dallas on Oct. 14.
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The collection is also scheduled to head to Europe, the Middle East and Asia in the coming months. Dresses start at $9,000 and run up to $29,000, with separates starting at $3,000.
Divulging the brand extension exclusively to WWD, Valli said he approached the project in a playful and fresh way.
“I mean, they don’t really look like bridal. They look more like special-occasion dresses. You can see yourself having fun when you wear them, and it’s not that institutional idea of the wedding dress. That’s why all the young clients and the fun ones come to me because they want something that’s more like a statement kind of dress.
“If you change the color, it can be the most amazing party dress,” he said, dialing in from Mykonos, Greece, where he was vacationing.
Produced in-house, the bridal collection punctuates a gradual widening — and sharpening — of Valli’s product offering.
Best known for his extravagant cocktail dresses and frothy evening gowns, the designer has recently been expanding his offering of daywear and “easy pieces” in his main collection, while also launching his label’s first beach and swimwear capsule.
“Now it’s time to go to the most extreme special-occasion moment,” he said. “It’s nice to work in these two directions and to expand the wardrobe.”
The Italian-born, Paris-based designer is to mark his first decade of haute couture in January 2022, and wedding attire — for the bride, bridal party and guests — represents about 65 percent of that rarified strata of fashion.
“We have very young customers in haute couture for weddings,” Valli said.
He relishes this part of the business and notes that “when I do an haute couture wedding dress, it’s like a psychotherapy” session with each client, as he discusses their childhood dreams of wedding dresses, and their present-day style. Other famous women he’s dressed for wedding festivities include Charlotte Dellal, Victoria Tang, Margherita Missoni, Feiping Chang, Selby Drummond and Noor Fares.
This has no doubt further boosted his profile and the growing demand from his ready-to-wear clients for bridal options.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time — and everyone was asking, asking, asking,” Valli said, describing his first Love collection as “bringing that Valli girl flavor, something that is more party time or happy time.”
The collection spans a range of silhouettes that express different facets of the “Valli girl” and could work across different types of celebrations, from private events and destination beach weddings to more grand and public ceremonies, as when Laura Vecino de Acha wed Spanish duke Rafael Medina and the couple landed on the cover of ¡Hola! magazine.
The designer said his approach was to maintain the haute couture “expertise and atelier rituals” and translate them in an industrial way, while maintaining the “richness of textures, materials and volumes” and the “same kind of femininity” that is central to the Valli fashion vocabulary. Pearls, lace, tulle and satin bows are among features of the clothing, while shoes and evening bags round out the Love offering.
The bridal capsule arrives at a more hopeful moment as large swaths of the world emerge, carefully, from pandemic lockdowns, and travel restrictions ease, allowing weddings postponed over the past year to go ahead.
Valli noted that ceremonies continued throughout the health crisis, in more intimate circumstances, but seem to be returning to bigger, more spectacular weddings along the lines of Giovanna Battaglia’s extravagant 2016 marriage to Oscar Engelbert, which involved multiple designer dresses for its various stages, including a macramé mini dress by Valli — complete with a three-meter veil — for the party.
Yet Valli opted for the small scale of trunk shows to sell the Love collection, rather than wholesale distribution. Each trunk show runs for three or four days.
“It’s very beautiful to approach the final customers in a more intimate way, almost like in a salon, where you have privacy, where you can see the details of the dresses, and experience the Giambattista Valli lifestyle,” he said, noting that trunk shows will be appointed with his maison’s flower arrangements, scented candles and the like. Staff are also to wear the white jackets typical in couture houses, heightening the sense of a fitting in a Parisian maison.
“I think it’s nice to be very close to the customers today, to bring a story and an experience, and not just throwing a new product on the market.”
He said he plans to do one bridal collection a year, allowing sufficient time to perfect the silhouettes, fabrics and embellishments. “It’s something that we really believe in,” Valli enthused.