Guillaume Henry — the designer who brought life back to Carven over his five-year tenure, transforming it from a faded couture house to a high contemporary brand with a gamine feel — made an excellent debut as the new creative director of Nina Ricci in February. It was sophisticated and feminine, offering pieces that were mature enough for the Ricci customer, and a few (particularly the mid-rise flared trousers, cropped jackets, and fringed and sequined separates) that promised to bring in a new, younger customer as well. The use of semi-transparent lace kept it all feeling very Ricci.
But the collection Henry showed on Saturday failed to deliver the same powerful combination. The warm, autumnal palette and the textures — from the airy sheer blouses to the glossy ostrich leather to the feathered and puckered satin dresses — were lovely to behold. But many of the clothes, which skewed heavily towards evening fare, fit badly: pleated sheath dresses in dripping ink patterns were anchored awkwardly on the bum, and those glossy ostrich pieces were too stiff to conform to the feminine forms beneath (though the material did look nice on a squarish mossy jacket). A cow-printed calf hair coat and PVC blouses didn't do much to help. But more than that, the collection seemed to lack distinction, a point-of-view. Who is the Ricci customer? Could she pick these clothes out on a rack? I'm not so sure.
Seeing Carven's spring collection two days before had made me miss Henry's days at the label. Though his replacements, Adrien Caillaudaud and Alexis Martial, have captured the youthful spirit of Henry's Carven, the execution this season just wasn't as exciting. Ricci's show made me wish all the more that he was still there.
That's not to say Henry won't go on to do great things at Ricci — his first collection already proved he's more than capable.