The Freedom of Artistic Creativity through the Construction of Positive Sentiment


By Lígia Carvalho Abreu (2015)


Giambattista Valli’s Tales of the Alhambra I. Illustration made by Catarina Pinto and Lígia Carvalho Abreu/Photo: “Ode to Spring” (Alhambra Gardens) by Lígia Carvalho Abreu. Source of Inspiration: Look 24 of the 2014/2015 Fall Couture Collection designed by Giambattista Valli.

“How difficult to reconcile the ancient tale of violence and blood with the gentle and peaceful scene around! Everything here appears calculated to inspire kind and happy feelings, for everything is delicate and beautiful.” Washington Irving in: The Court of Lions. Tales of the Alhambra, 77-78.     


The artistic creativity of fashion designers is a manifestation of their freedom of expression, which appeals to different types of emotions. Through their designs, their runway shows or their advertisement campaigns they can verbalise thoughts of imaginary worlds and/or reality. In this sense, I consider fashion a cultural and artistic instrument, capable of spreading a message against oppression, hate, discrimination, intolerance, among other negative sentiments which endanger the affirmation of contemporary society’s fundamental rights.

It is possible to achieve this objective in a shocking-provocative way, which has proven to be effective in the short term, especially on a commercial level, or by constructing an aesthetic of joy, enthusiasm, kindness and affection, all included in the concept of positive sentiment.

The construction of this positive sentiment matches the aspirations of each human being’s personal development, inherent to its dignity, and essential to the integrity of interpersonal relationships.

However, it is not easy to extract positive sentiments from past and present sequences of horror and violence. A culture of violence or peace has a connection with the reproduction of negative or positive emotions.

Fashion creativity, here understood as a cultural value in modern societies, is in a position to express these emotions. Fashion is based on the dynamics of giving and receiving. It gives new ways of expression and receives new ways of expression too. This mutual influence, with its origin of both man and nature, sometimes chooses to communicate through positive emotions:  

“Enthusiasm, Passion and Joy!” This is the implicit and explicit message found in the work of Giambattista Valli and represents positive sentiment expressed in his 2014 Fall Haute Couture Collection.


Giambattista Valli’s Tales of the Alhambra II. Illustration made by Catarina Pinto and Lígia Carvalho Abreu/Photo: Detail of the Alhambra Palace by Lígia Carvalho Abreu. Source of Inspiration: Look 20 of the 2014/2015 Fall Couture Collection designed by Giambattista Valli.


There is a phrase from  Washington Irving’s book Tales of the Alhambra, about The Alhambra by Moonlight which is poetically appropriate to describing the emotions of this collection “…serenity of the soul, a buoyancy of spirits, an elasticity of frame that render mere existence enjoyment”[i].

In fact, the designer visited the Alhambra years ago. He absorbed the eclecticism of the Palace and the inspirational beauty of its gardens, thus creating the 2014 fall couture collection.   

Giambattista Valli, suchlike the master Roberto Capucci with whom he began his apprenticeship in haute couture, considers nature, art, form, structure, colour, literature and music as elements of the creative act[ii]. This explains the immediate recognition of his inspirational identity in the sensory and emotive experience of visiting the Alhambra. 

         The collection is evocative in the poetry and of some complexity in the forms of the Alhambra. By masterfully using form, the designer recreated the lilac wisteria from the palace gardens into a white coat as well as long dresses. The blooming flowers of spring are almost found everywhere: in skirts, blouses, dresses and coats. The presence of birds on a stunning long dress is another element which is possible to relate to the physical and emotional space of the Alhambra. In the Legend of the Prince Ahmed Al Kamel, nature, more notably a bird, explains to the confused prince the essence of love[iii]


Giambattista Valli’s Tales of the Alhambra III. Illustration made by Catarina Pinto and Lígia Carvalho Abreu/Photo: Hall of the Two Sisters at the Alhambra Palace by Lígia Carvalho Abreu. Source of Inspiration: Look 45 of the 2014/2015 Fall Couture Collection designed by Giambattista Valli.


White blouses styled as a pyjama blouse, transport us to an influence of reverie that the Alhambra Halls produce in the minds of those who visit them.

With a yellow and white feathery tulle skirt, the designer has succeeded in making us feel the ethereal heat of the Andalusian spring melting the snowy summits of the Sierra Nevada, seen from the Palace, and sending down “rivulets and streams through every glen and gorge of Alpujarras, diffusing emerald verdure and fertility throughout a chain of happy and sequestered valleys[iv].  

We can picture the girl with the yellow and white tulle skirt and the white pyjama blouse walking along the Hall of the Two Sisters, (Sala de las Dos Hermanas) in direction to the Partal Gardens (Jardines del Partal), while reading the Ibn Zamrak verses about the exquisite sculpted flower that embellishes the dome of this Hall.

And she will wear those clothes several times because it brings back memories of positive sentiments. 




[i] Washington Irving. The Alhambra by Moonlight Tales of the Alhambra. Commemorative edition to mark the 175th anniversary of the publication of the Tales of the Alhambra. Ediciones Miguel Sanchez: 2007, 72.    

[ii] Dylis E. Blum. Roberto Capucci: Art into fashion. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Yale University Press: 2011.    

[iii] Washington Irving. Legend of Prince Ahmed Al Kamel or the Pilgrim of Love. Tales of the Alhambra, 169 -200.

[iv] Washington Irving. The Tower of Comares. Tales of the Alhambra, 49.