Giovanna Battaglia: The Enchanting Promise
By Kristin Sekora
In “The Enchanting Promise,” Giovanna Battaglia takes us inside the mysterious Lloyd Wright designed Sowden House in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles to recreate an Imperial palace in 1930s Japan for the February 2013 edition of Vogue Nippon. Here we find a prince and heir and his regal consort, played by the Canadian model Alana Zimmer, whose aristocratic features, dark hair and eyes, and pale skin fit the role perfectly. An unnamed male model with Valentino good looks and slicked back hair tends to her every mood.
In contrast to other editorials Giovanna Battaglia has done for Vogue Nippon, which were all pastels of pale blues and poppy reds, this is set by Giovanna and photographed by Mark Segal in somber evening light and the clothes are rich, deep tones of absinthe, burgundy, and sapphire.
The choice of the Sowden House is telling, for “The Enchanting Promise” suggests a pact between these two lovers that goes beyond the everyday reality of a love affair. Their waxen faces and gaunt eyes suggest a love beyond death and, except for the opening and closing shots, where Alana looks very sad to have re-entered the world of the living, the fact that they are alone together makes you think that they occupy this palace very much on their own. The Sowden House is the perfect setting, with its wild savage stonework based on Mesoamerican architecture, and as the one-time home of Dr. George Hodel, a Los Angeles physician who was a prime suspect in the infamous Black Dahlia murder.
The dresses Alana wears are all worthy of the red carpet, starting with a deep reddish burgundy with sheer shirred top by Valentino that is offset with turquoise collar and cuffs by Tony Duquette. Her lover wears a silk cape by Alexander McQueen printed as gray snakeskin on black. He holds her in her blood-red dress, leaning over her neck just like Dracula in a 1930s horror movie.
In another shot Alana approaches the camera like a zombie in an absinthe-toned Diane von Furstenberg dress stunningly accentuated by a bold bronze navel-length necklace by Hervé Van der Straeten — backed by the exquisite sculpted copper gates that contain the central courtyard of the Sowden House. I especially like the feline pose by Alana in a dress by Rick Owens that is like poured liquid platinum. She is surrounded here by two ocelots, frequent pets in royal households during this era, and so hunted for their pelts that today the world population of these creatures has fallen to only 217. We are fortunate that our lust for exotic furs has been curtailed by laws against illegal hunting of endangered species.
In a shot of Alana in a dress by Etro, Giovanna Battaglia has done a brilliant job of styling the beauty look with the fashion. The dress is a wonderful mustard yellow with a pale orange lining to the sleeve. (I can’t quite name the color, a coral-y pumpkin, please comment!) She has chosen the amazing jeweler Tony Duquette again for a very large statement brooch in coral to offset the fan effect of the neckline. Here the lipstick is the same unnameable pale orange with a slight bronze overlay and so are the nails. Alana’s blackened eye makeup contrasted with her pale face looks deathly, while her regal hair pulled back reminds me of the Duchess of Windsor — and makes me think of this as a back story of a royal couple who take their own lives because he could not ascend to the throne if he married her. The couple in this editorial very much has an air of sadness and death about them.
But for some fun: For the most part, the shoes shown here are all statement pieces. Gone are the days of the delicate evening sandal worn with our fancy gowns. Now that sheer chiffon dress is accessorized with gold gladiator sandals or multi-strapped Giuseppe Zanotti’s on towering heels. Taking the cue, I bought my first pair of Zanotti shoes this summer after avoiding them for ages because they looked so high and uncomfortable. I found they were very comfortable. That heel in the middle of the arch is perfectly balanced for such height. They are also one of the best made pairs of shoes I have ever owned. As for statement shoes, I have a pair of very high-heel Etro platform boots lined in badger from two years ago that I am wearing all this summer with either a mauve balloon-skirted Balenciagaesque summer dress or a sleeveless silk knit printed Etro dress with beading down the front. How’s that for a statement?!
Vogue Nippon editorial images © 2013 Condé Nast. All Rights Reserved.