Dior is one of France’s luxury institutions, so it’s not surprising that, even without a designer at its helm, the maison decided to stage a grand show for haute couture spring/summer 2016. We will have to wait until July to see the first collection designed by whoever replaces Raf Simons, who left the brand last year after a three-year-long run. Meanwhile, the design team came up with a line-up of elegant separates and dresses that paid respect to Dior’s storied heritage and Simons’ brief tenure. The clothes were beautiful but lacked the wow factor – it’s clear that no studio insider took charge a la Alessandro Michele at Gucci, using this collection to shake things up and apply for the top job. The show began with off-the-shoulder dresses and blouses paired with asymmetrical and draped skirts, most of them in a muted palette but featuring intricate decorations. Some of the coats were reminiscent of Simons’ last couture show while Bar jackets reworked as coat dresses were nods to Dior’s DNA. A series of sheer looks in black lace had a deshabillé and sexy attitude that is not often associated with Dior. This was the only element of surprise in a show that made perfect sense as a subdued statement before the label finds its groove with a new designer to head the studio.
This was Giambattista Valli’s tenth couture show. It’s hard to believe that in just a few years the designer has managed to build such a loyal base of clients, young jet-setters who come out in droves to attend his shows and buy – not just borrow – his frothy confections. Valli, or Giamba, as they all call him, pulls at their heartstrings with a simple formula: feminine and delicate frocks that make women of all age – not just the Valli girls – look like debuntates. Valli is far from the conceptual designer coming up with obscure references or highfalutin ideas; he just wants to make women look beautiful, and each collection is an evolution over the previous one. He reworks his feminine silhouettes season after season, focusing his attention on stunning decorations that display a level of craftsmanship on par with the oldest couture houses. For spring/summer 2016, dresses and gowns in a predominantly white palette were exquisitely embellished with sequins and embroideries – a showstopping look featured impeccably made floral appliqués in fur. Empire gowns worthy of Josephine, short sequined dresses for a night out on the town, tiered ball gowns destined for grand soirées – they’ve all become Valli signatures and appeared once again this season, eliciting oohs and aahs from his front-row regulars. This time he even adorned the heads of some models with tiaras topped by silver balls. While it was a rather awkward styling trick, it brought home the point that his girls are ultimately modern-day princesses who love nothing more than looking like ones.