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2009 March 11

Opera on Ice

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(PARIS) Giambattista Valli's dramatic runway show on Monday was only the beginning of his Fashion Week winning streak. On Tuesday, the affable designer known as "Giamba" presented his collection for Moncler Gamme Rouge in the Opera Garnier. Editors avoided the great hall, however--instead, they were instructed to enter through a small side door and teeter down steep service stairs. (Luckily, a kind Moncler rep took Glenda Bailey's hand.) Once downstairs in the cold cement basement, they followed a string of red flourescent light to a magical space entitled the Rotonde des Caves filled with the latest collection, seen in tableaux masterminded by Valli and his frequent collaborator Alex de Betak.

The general idea was a winter wonderland, but as always at chez Valli, things are not strictly what they seem. Images of ice configurations and snowflakes were projected on the cement walls, while a geometric ice sculpture served as the room's center of gravity. In that small installation, snow fell from the ceiling. Two white horses lounged in a corner in homage to the works of artist Jannis Kounellis. Meanwhile, the collection was equally breathtaking, as every piece--from a fox-lined sleeping bag to a puffed evening gown dazzled with a diamant√© brooch--was rife with couture touches.

"It comes from this idea based on the film Russian Ark," said Valli. "It's all about the story of Russia--the frozen, Russian world. The first scene is like Siberia, with all these fox furs, then there's subversive decoration with the horses. It's a magical atmosphere." Serendipitously, the French opera officials were thrilled with the idea of staging a fashion event in the distinctly unglamorous basement--and the horses didn't faze them one bit. "It wasn't a problem!" said Valli. "In the Opera, they always put live animals on the stage. But this is the first event to ever happen in its basement!"
ASHLEY BAKER




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