IVANA OMAZIC IS riding high. We're at a party in her honour in Paris, a few hours after her first collection for French fashion house Celine appeared on the catwalk. She chats happily to guests and peers, and is surrounded by numerous members of her family, who have flown in from Croatia to celebrate with her. 'I didn't even have five minutes to realise it was really happening,' she says. 'I didn't think too much and just went ahead and did it. It was great to have my family here. They're so supportive and positive. Today, we're living two different lives, so it was nice to finally show them my world.' Omazic's world has changed dramatically since she was appointed artistic director for Celine in July. The news came as a surprise to insiders, many of whom barely recognised the young designer's name, although she's done stints with Prada, Jil Sander and Miu Miu. Celine's history didn't help. In the past few years the fashion house - which was founded by Celine Vipiana in 1971 - has seen its fair share of designers, including American Michael Kors, who won over legions of fans with his fun and sporty style, and Italian Roberto Menichetti, who failed to attract clients with his so-called abstruse modernism. Omazic's appointment was seen as an exciting prospect for the house and the perfect opportunity to re-establish its raison d'etre. The young designer was up for the challenge. 'I jumped into it. I jumped on the plane after the announcement and started working on the collection on July 20. I was excited because I want to make it a more refined Celine. It's a house with a great history, but it's not the trendiest brand, and I'm a trendy person. It's about details with proportions, and trying new things. I wanted my first collection to be a strong message and homage to Celine, but for a more modern woman - a woman who works.' There's no doubt that her first offering was a refreshing change for the brand. The show opened with a fiery ball rotating at the end of the runway and what followed was equally explosive. Out came simple but feminine silk or chiffon dresses in fiery tones paired with bright mohair cardigans, knee-high socks, floppy hats and plenty of sexiness. The other looks that followed were varied. Skirts abounded, ranging from wraparound schoolgirl styles with pleats to an elegant pencil cut featuring a giant flower printed on the front. The trench coat was given an update with new proportions, including exaggerated shoulders, and her three-piece ensembles - sweater, blouse and skirt - wouldn't look out of place on a Parisien or a Hongkonger. The collection appeared to incorporate elements of the house's heritage, while embodying a modern and wearable look that hadn't been seen since Kors. We meet the next day, with Omazic looking chic in a white shirt, black cardigan, pleated skirt, knee-high socks and high-heeled loafers. She's certainly not as happy as she was the night before. Reviews of her show were mixed. Some critics felt there were too many looks, while others thought the abundance of bags was an unnecessary distraction. But some reviews welcomed the change wholeheartedly and looked forward to Omazic's next collection. 'What the press says is important, but not as important as what the clients say when they go into the shop,' she says. 'They're the ones who make us work, and give us a reason to work. 'This morning, I've read some harsh criticisms and some enthusiastic comments. One German journalist said it was the best show of Paris. I expect varied responses - it's part of the game.' Omazic was born in the Croatian capital of Zagreb to a family of economists, so fashion wasn't the most obvious career for the 32-year-old. 'It happened by accident. I went to London when I was five to spend some time with my aunt who was a fashion designer, and who worked with many high-profile faces [including Ava Gardner and Ingrid Bergman in the 1960s]. 'I remember riding on this red bicycle with her in a bright red dress, and watching her work and meeting people she worked with. I wanted to be a fashion designer then. The dream stayed with me and I realised I could do nothing else.' When war broke out in Croatia in 1991 she decided to study at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan, which had the advantage of being near her home town. She began her career in 1996, working for designer Romeo Gigli, after which she joined Prada, then Sander. At Miu Miu, she became design co- ordinator of women's ready-to-wear, and worked closely with Miuccia Prada. During this time she began to create her own style. 'From Prada I learnt how important it is to be creative, but practical at the same time,' she says. 'When you design something you should think, 'Will I wear it and why should people buy it?' At Romeo Gigli I learnt the poetic approach to fashion, how fashion is about creating a dream for women's personalities. He also taught me not to be so complicated. It's easy to overdo things. Both lessons are important because one is something I think about in the beginning and the other at the end of the design process.' Although she cites as her mentors couturiers Cristobel Balenciaga, Madeline Vionnet and Coco Chanel, she wants to make her own mark and Celine could be her platform. 'I'm not an artist but a designer. I want to do things women like to wear. My work is for the contemporary woman. Fashion doesn't just make one statement. It's not about one dress or one type of woman. It's constantly changing. That's why, with my work, I don't pretend to please everyone. 'The working woman is still feminine. I want her to keep this femininity, but also move ahead with the times. The Celine way is to be dressed but not naked. I want to respect the woman, but never treat her as an object or focus too much on sensuality. What's nice about being a woman is developing your own sensuality.' Omazic seems unaffected by the possibility of becoming fashion's next star designer. 'I hope to be a good designer, not a big star,' she says. 'I didn't start this job to become a star, I did it because I love fashion. For me, it's the best job I can do. It's pleasant to have attention and it's a great gift, but I hope to be strong enough to remain a normal person.'