Smart women — in both senses — were at the heart of two collections which have different attitudes to femininity
Giambattista Valli: Conquering Femininity With Brand Expansion
Giambattista Valli has created his own logo — showing for the first time at his spring/summer 2017 show how the 'V' is incorporated into a brand signature.
The fact that it appeared on a simple blouse worn with narrow trousers, and also on a floaty long dress, sums up the reach that the designer has built up for his namesake label — almost from cradle to grave.
There is now Giamba, a young line for "kids of...", a fur collection — both showing in Italy — and then couture and ready-to-wear under the designer's full name in Paris.
"I want to underline who is Giambattista Valli and the woman who belongs to the name," said the designer before a collection which ran along his familiar but carefully thought out line between light and sensual to more-or-less practical.
The appearance of visible bras might have put off some of his clients — that look is a bit of a yawn as the partner to light fabric for the summer season. But Valli also brought a twinge of the dark side of dressing, a suggestion of languid summer days and sex in the afternoon.
Anything but the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie! It might be the title of a famous film by Luis Bunuel, but strikes a frisson of horror in the fashion universe. No matter that three quarters of customers will not be cute young things, but are probably leading bourgeois lives and need clothes to suit.
So even when the Giambattista young women had passed by in their pleated lace skirts, their strapless dresses smothered in tiny flowers or their cute jackets over little dresses, what was there for a grown woman? Even more black bras on full view — and then a flash of normality: a white embroidered tunic partnered with slim black trousers.
Intriguingly, Giambattista's inspiration was mounted on a plinth backstage — a book by existentialist writer Simone de Beauvoir.
"I love her introspection as a woman, that she goes inside her femininity, how she conquered it," the designer said, adding that she was the French woman he had taken as the symbol of the collection.
How all that matched up with frilly dresses and visible bras escaped me. But I respect Giambattista for being the only designer around who is building his brand without the support of luxury conglomerates.
Nina Ricci: Bourgeois Delight
If I were asked by a smart Parisian (female) lawyer, or almost anyone past the age of picaboo dresses and visible bras, what they should be wearing, I would send them to Nina Ricci.
This must be the last store standing that genuflects to the bourgeoisie, and designer Guillaume Henry is at the heart of it.
His show had everything a certain kind of smart, intelligent woman wants, but rarely finds: tailored trouser suits, neat jackets, sleek skirts. There was also a sporty dynamic to make good looking sweaters and well-cut trousers.
And if those seem pretty familiar? This time around they are in the colour purple.
The same shades were everywhere, carpeting the runway and on the models who might shrug into a shiny papal purple top and burgundy suede trousers. The colour extended to handbags, to an oversize blazer and even a lilac velvet trouser suit.
There were other offerings, of course, especially vertical stripes in black and white. But after a week of statement outfits from designers with high and complex ideas, a touch of the bourgeois seemed rather soothing.