The Cannes film festival is in full swing, and each day brings with it star-studded red carpets, film premieres and the sort of parties that you only see in films. Thursday evening's charity gala at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, hosted by amfAR, the foundation for Aids research, at was particularly jaw-dropping, as were the dresses. This is an opportunity for fashion one-upmanship on a stellar scale, with guests often working alongside designers for months in advance to create custom designs. Most of these dresses are one-offs that will never make it to a shop rail - and the price tags are, accordingly, of the if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it variety.
The best dressed guest was new-gen supermodel Kendall Jenner, who arrived in a highlighter-pink layered tulle ballgown that was unmistakeably a Giambattista Valli design, echoing the short at the front, long at the back design of the pale pink iteration that Rihanna wore to a Valerian film premiere in 2017 and the lime green that Deepika Padukone wore on the Cannes red carpet just a week earlier. And yes, there was Valli himself in the wings, casting an eye over his Barbie-buys-couture creation.
But here's where things get interesting. Jenner's dress was a preview of Valli's latest collection - a collaboration with H&M.
Valli is the latest designer to bring his name and aesthetic to the high street giant's shops. Since 2004, when the late Karl Lagerfeld collaborated with the Scandinavian brand, some of the biggest names in the fashion industry have followed suit: Versace, Stella McCartney, Isabel Marant, Erdem, Roberto Cavalli, Comme des Garcons, Balmain, Moschino... Each collection has been a sell-out success, with shoppers camping out outside H&M flagship stores for the chance to buy into these designer brands, often at a hundredth of the price.
Past collections have been launched with blow-out VIP parties or catwalk shows on a fashion-week scale. But while this latest collaboration won't be available to buy until 7th November 2019, for the first time H&M will be offering a limited edition pre-collection of the pieces worn on the red carpet on Thursday, which will be available online and in a few selected stores from the 25th May.
Fans of Giambattista Valli are in for a treat as the Italian-born designer, who launched his eponymous line in Paris in 2005 after having worked at houses including Fendi and Emanuel Ungaro, hasn't diluted his design signatures. Despite the high-street price tags, there are dresses on the scale of Valli's most spectacular red carpet moments - and even a white tulle wedding dress for £399.
"I am used to intense and exacting atelier work, and I have very high standards when it comes to the quality of my creations," said Valli, "but I have to admit I was the first to be surprised when we received samples for the fittings. H&M was able to get the same effect. They did everything wonderfully, even my signature multi-tier tulle gowns.”
There are also organza blouses from £39.99, silk chiffon miniskirts, stiletto sandals trimmed with glitter hearts (149.99), crystal waist belts and tiaras from £24.99, and a menswear capsule of polka dot trouser suits and pearl-studded loafers. But it's those layer-upon-layer tulle dresses - which demand an occasion that can live up to them - that will be sure to sell out first. “I aim at creating a distinctive silhouette," said Valli of his design ethos, "because a silhouette will pierce the memory."