Impossible Conversations, the Metropolitan Museum’s “dialogue” between Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, inspired Giambattista Valli to create an impossible conversation of his own between Coco Chanel and Janis Joplin. The fact that neither woman was particularly happy was less relevant to Valli than the free-spirited independence they expressed in their personal style: Coco with her little jackets influenced by menswear, Janis with her iconoclastic layering of cocktail dresses over pants. From such glimmers was the acid-pastel fantasia of Valli’s collection born.
A thick, floral-patterned carpet was intended to suggest an Italian garden, while overhead, mirrors floated like silvery clouds. The abstract modernity of this environment pointed to the side of Valli’s design personality that favors edgy elegance: a silk faille top and pants, say, or the Infanta-silhouetted caped top, also in faille, with its scattering of floral embroidery and matching pants. An embroidered silk tunic and pants embodied the Janis side of the Impossible Conversation. He swathed them in an ocean of foaming tulle, an effervescent touch that made it easy to imagine the young loyalists who pack his front row gravitating toward such looks.
But Valli also swung to the other extreme: ruffled shoulders, voluminous silk cloqué skirts, and fur capes colored him as a bastion of couture conservatism. That part of Valli’s Impossible Conversation didn’t have the same effervescence.