Ahead of the highly-anticipated Giambattista Valli x H&M collection, we chat with Italian couturier Giambattista Valli and H&M’s Creative Advisor Ann‐Sofie Johansson about the inspiration behind the collection, what led to the collaboration, as well as the processes involved in realising the project.
1. Floral, animal and lip prints appear to be recurring motifs in the collection. What inspired this collection, and what would you like to convey?
The goal of my collaboration with H&M is to share my love for beauty and to be part of everyone’s “happy times”, to help create love stories all around the world. Therefore, I created an “abecedario” of the Giambattista Valli style, a selection of timeless pieces meant to be mixed and matched according to personal style and to be cherished for a long time. It’s all about style more than fashion.
2. How has your background and experiences as an established couturier and dressmaker influenced this collection? What is integral to your design process?
By creating, I only do 50% of the job, the other half is up to the customer wearing my clothes, which need to be filled by their personalities, their individual intellect and independent interpretation of style. I always like to think that my job is a way for me to be part of and share the “happy moments” of the life of the clients I dress. And I like to think of myself as a storyteller who creates a balance between opposites. Instead of working on revolutions, a notion that I find often aggressive, I like to create love stories, a harmony between different and contrasting concepts, an ode to beauty and to effortless style and timeless elegance, which is all evident in the H&M collaboration.
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3. From couture to fast fashion, you’ve literally traveled through the opposite ends of the fashion spectrum. What were some of the challenges you faced in producing this collection, and what have you learnt in the process?
I would say I would say that the most challenging was making a selection from all the beautiful prototypes that were produced for the fittings after I drew the collection; all the teams got really excited and we ended up having more material than needed. Editing out amazing pieces was a little bittersweet. As for what I’ve learned, I’m used to dressing clients from different cultures around the world, but with H&M the reach is so much wider that the excitement is also exponential to that. I am extremely happy and proud to see a wider group of friends wearing my creations, each interpreting them in their own way.
4. Why did you agree to this partnership and what did you hope to achieve by working with H&M?
The hope is to make the biggest number of people happy, ecstatic to wear these clothes and to share fabulous moments with their friends. I was very humbled when H&M approached me. I don’t think that H&M knocks on the door of every designer, but they came to mine and it’s an exciting moment for the Maison. The collaboration was a great thermometer to understand how Giambattista Valli as a brand is
perceived – the reach of the collaboration announcement on social media alone exceeded more than half a billion people! Delivering this dream on such a large scale was definitely unexpected and beautiful at the same time, which I think is the most surprising and happy side of the collaboration – to share the extraordinary for which the Maison is known with a larger group of friends.
5. What are your most memorable experiences from collaborating H&M on this collection?
There are too many to choose because they all made me happy. And happiness is key to both my personal philosophy and the philosophy of the Maison, to share and support the special moments in life with my creations. My dear friend Lee Radziwill used to remind me: “Giambattista, happy times are so very few in life, you must enjoy them at the fullest.” So with this H&M collaboration, I loved creating beautiful, extraordinary pieces for Valli Girls and Valli Boys around the world, and spreading happiness by supporting their special moments in life.
1. How did this collaboration between Giambattista Valli and H&M come about?
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.
2. When it comes to the selection of designers for such collaborations, what characteristics do you look for in the designer, or is there a specific list of criteria that has to be met?
Honestly, the process of how we choose and plan the collaboration designers is always different. While this may seem inefficient to some, it’s the best way to get the best out of the collaboration, for both sides. It also allows for more creativity, better communication and a special approach that ultimately is seen and felt by customers around the world because it’s a tailored experience, so to speak. Of course, we have learned many things over the years, but overall, it’s like a new thing every year!
3. Could you tell us more about the processes involved in realising this project?
We generally give free reins to the designers for the collaborations, but the H&M team also work closely with them, bouncing ideas off each other, sharing sketches, looking over the samples and so on. So in close collaboration with the H&M team, Giambattista Valli has created a collection that is an eclectic recap of his signature styles with pieces designed to last and be loved over time. They are beautiful and well-crafted – spanning both womenswear and menswear – but also effortless and timeless. There’s a wonderful high-low mix of partywear, for example, and more streetwear-inspired garments, which ultimately act as a full wardrobe for different occasions. And then there’s an element of fun that is very Valli, such as his lips as jewellery, the strong silhouettes or flamboyant frills.
Related article: Every Piece From The Giambattista Valli X H&M Pre-Drop Collection
4. What has designer collaborations done for H&M? Why is it important for the brand to continue this series?
The designer collaborations strengthen our brand as a fashion retailer and clearly show that design is not a matter of price. As long as we receive a positive response from our customers, and as long as they appreciate our collaborations, we will to continue.
5. What are your most memorable experiences and takeaways from this collaboration with Giambattista Valli?
There are so many wonderful memories! Giambattista Valli’s work is obviously amazingly crafted, but what I remember most is how well-thought out it all is. From the pure design skill, expertise with fabrics and embellishment and colour palettes to the personal touches, Giambattista Valli is a very hands-on designer and gets excited by details. So it was equally exciting, educational and inspiring to work with him on that. And it was those personal connections he has with his clients and the Valli Girls and Boys that we could learn from – that it was possible to belong to an authentic community or as Giambattista would probably see it, family, via clothing.
The complete Giambattista Valli X H&M collection will be available online and at participating H&M stores from November 7.