Paris Fashion Week

Guillaume Henry does femme fatale, but is it right for Nina Ricci?

With its boxy shapes and shiny leather looks, new collection a radical departure for line known for its softness and purity of style

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 11:13am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 11:13am

Talented French designer Guillaume Henry pretty much single-handedly revived Carven and made it a fun, fashion-forward brand that tapped into the style zeitgeist, to the delight of the world's cool and youthful set. His debut at Nina Ricci was a chance to take his talents to a more sophisticated level, with a clientele that puts femininity at the forefront.

The recent Nina Ricci style, although very pretty and popular, especially in Asia, had been feeling a little staid and unable to move forward. Henry's appointment was no doubt a move to fix all that. And move on he certainly did, with a collection barely recognisable from recent seasons.

Henry seemed to consciously go against the grain of what the brand has stood for. Where girlish softness and ethereal purity once reigned, his spring/summer 2016 collection was all hard-nosed femme fatale - coldly beautiful with glossy red lips under harsh lighting. The new Ricci muse? In a word: intimidating - and apparently inspired by the legendary German actress Romy Schneider. Boxy shapes ignored the models' tiny waists, shiny leather skirts and long trousers were worn with wisps of tops that were completely sheer. There was a masculine, utilitarian element to thick-strapped apron tops and dresses, and fabric textures that had a crumpled-paper feel.

The shiny leather was striking. Long, square jackets with oversized pockets in mustard or cowhide made cool statement pieces, but too often their vinyl surfaces seemed too aggressive and stiff, and there was too much repetition. A welcome counter to the general coldness of the looks were ostrich feather shift dresses, playful in their movement.

It's not clear that this collection will serve as much of a reference point for the Nina Ricci clientele. However, this is Henry's first collection for the brand and doubtless his intuition will guide him towards a more sophisticated interpretation next time out.