As H&M’s hottest collab goes live, we speak to the inspiration behind it – designer Giambattista Valli and H&M’s Creative Advisor, Ann-Sofie Johansson.
Passions Arabia’s five minutes with Giambattista Valli
Passions Arabia: Alongside the women’s collection with H&M, you’ve also launched your first men’s collection as part of the collab. We’ve two questions here: was it a daunting challenge and, why did it take so long for you to present for men?
Giambattista Valli: Not at all. I truly treasure the span of offering and the variety of pieces from this collection: from street and daywear to evening and party looks, customers can enjoy the world of Giambattista Valli. Menswear has been on my mind and I am very proud of having approached it for the first time with this collaboration, although I always design for characters, regardless of their gender. Freedom of expression is the ultimate luxury, not the value of the price tag!
PA: How did you approach styling men? How different an ethos did you employ to when you’re dressing women?
GBV: With the menswear, I approached it in reverse. Instead of having women borrow pieces from the men’s wardrobe, as it usually happens, I explored the idea of men taking pieces, patterns and fabrics from the women’s wardrobe. The choice of baby pink as the basic colour – the simplest tee in the collection is pink, not white – says it all. The collection is a selection of timeless items meant to be mixed and matched according to personal style. In this way, I do not distinguish pieces between womenswear or menswear, rather, I designed this collection for customers regardless of gender. When I create a piece, it is about the character who wears it, their personality and their own distinguished style and culture, and how my design could embrace these. So regardless of womenswear or menswear, it finally comes down to these core elements of an individual.
PA: Who, for you, is ‘The Valli Boy’? Who, for you, is ‘The Valli Girl?
GBV: The Valli Girls and Valli Boys are very independent. They don’t follow any trends and they’re very nomadic in their sense of style. They are very eclectic. The Valli People adapt to any situation in such a beautiful way because they are comfortable with themselves.
Passions Arabia’s five minutes with H&M’s Creative Advisor, Ann-Sofie Johansson
PA: What did you see in GBV’s other recent work that you saw would strike a chord with H&M’s customers?
ASJ: We chose Giambattista Valli for this year’s H&M designer collaboration because he is the undisputed master of couture with an amazing ability to create strong silhouettes, and both H&M and Giambattista himself wanted to share that with our customers around the world. We were also drawn to how he speaks to the modern woman and man as much as the craftsmanship and beauty of his designs, which you’ll be able to see throughout the collection.
PA: Did it take a leap of faith to have GBV launch his debut men’s collection as an H&M collab?
ASJ: Not at all. Giambattista Valli really relished the challenge and he had a great idea. Normally, women are borrowing pieces from the boyfriend’s wardrobe, but the Giambattista Valli x H&M menswear collection is the opposite: it’s inspired by womenswear and encourages customers to dress their personality. Animal and flower prints, as well as sequins and the signature Valli pearls, are seen on traditional menswear pieces such as blazers, fine-knitted sweaters and shirts, but also on modern classics such as the parka and hoodies.
PA: This is H&M’s 19th designer collaboration and, this time with GBV, H&M goes couture. What’s your customer’s reaction been?
ASJ: The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. I believe they’re looking forward to the beautiful, well-crafted pieces that are also effortless and timeless. And there’s a wonderful high-low mix of partywear and more streetwear-inspired garments, which ultimately act as a wardrobe for different occasions and means there will be something for everyone!
PA: Personal stand-out pieces from the current collaboration?
ASJ: For the womenswear, the dresses are obviously important and the most recognisable item from Giambattista Valli’s oeuvre, but the outerwear is just as spectacular and the jewellery is pretty special, too. For the menswear, the tailored blazers are key as are the embellished jersey pieces and the fine knitwear. As for my personal favourites, it’s always hard to choose, but my heart does beat a little faster for the maxi-length black floral tulle dress with the jewelled neckline, ruffled details and poet sleeves.