To be tasked with reviving a heritage brand is not an easy role for a vibrant, modern designer — especially when the brand's original creator, in the case of Paco Rabanne, lived through the 1969 moon landing, as well as the sporty liberation of women.
Current designer Julien Dossena is making a good job of exchanging retro futurism for an athletic modernity. This season he added that 'undone' look that still seems to hold a fascination. The geometric rigidity of the Paco style was softened by a wispy hemline or a chiffon mini dress, while a crystal top was paired with trousers which had yet more loose threads of fabric.
The game of designer musical chairs keeps on playing. Dossena was an assistant at Balenciaga, working under his front row guest Nicolas Ghesquière, who is now at Louis Vuitton. On the runway, I thought that I spotted various Balenciaga influences in a techno top and slithery trousers with a plastic pocket - but that could equally be attributed to Paco brought into the digital era.
And therein lies the problem. Tie-dye top? A 60s hippie thing. Sport with a sexy injection in a bra top and shorts with upper-thigh straps? A 90s look. Silver jacket? Paco metallic. An orange top with a swirl of geometric pattern? Hard to define.
The answer to the question is this: it is difficult for a talented designer to put himself into another designer's sandals.
Carven: Nautical but nice
The transparent plastic tent as backdrop to the runway at Carven suggested a 1960s space-age story. And lo! Out came a short, triangular skirt with circles at the hem. Paco? Or do I mean Courrèges? Certainly not Carven.
But what does that historic house stand for now? When Guillaume Henry was at the helm, he reinvented the spirit by thinking of the granddaughters of the chic founder: fresh young girls from the smart 16th Arrondissement, the Paris equivalent of New York's Upper East Side.
Current designers Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaud sent out an acceptable collection with a light tang of the sea in white and blue. There were other offbeat shades such as mauve. It all added up to nice clothes but without much character channelled from the founder or this duo.