Sometimes a shoe can steal focus in the worst way, as it did at Giambattista Valli’s fall show where one poor model struggling in wobbly heels walked not once, not twice, but three times around the runway with her foot and ankle spilling over to one side. It was excruciating to watch, not to mention trying to soldier through it without collapsing on the floor.

Valli does have a somewhat stilted view of femininity that is not for everyone. But for Ciara, Fan Bing Bing and others who flocked to the show in feathers and sheer tulle, it works.

For that customer, he delivered the goods, even if they were all over the map.

Valli was inspired by Joséphine de Beauharnais Bonaparte. “She was empress for just five years, then followed another life, I love that independence, and her exchange with other cultures,” the designer said of the first wife of Emperor Napoleon I from 1804 until the marriage was annulled in 1810.

That translated not to historicism, but the freedom to wear whatever you want — but make it loud — from a black metallic tweed jumpsuit, T-shirt and chunky boots look, to pink feather-trimmed white jeans with a sleeveless top and heels, always with gobstopper-sized earrings.

For women, there were chiffon dresses with billowing high-low hems in candy red and pink, jacquard minis trailing wispy tulle trains, an embroidered Empire gown Joséphine herself really might have worn, and a red ruffle finale gown that was more haute Spanish than French.

Valli was encouraged to add more menswear to his offering after dropping a few pieces into a couture collection shown digitally during COVID-19. The response was immediate, so he started thinking about adapting his decorative aesthetic. So a sheer gold-sequined embroidered tunic and black jeans look was a match to a slinky women’s dress and bodysuit, and a gilded crew was worked with the same details as the bodice of the Joséphine gown. It made for a cute his and hers interplay.

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