Ever the baby sister to Paris’ better known, more flamboyant labels, for the past few years Carven has absolutely dominated the market in preppy girlishness. This season it would appear that designer Guillaume Henry wanted to stretch his wings a bit and dabble in some ambitious prints and patterns.
The overall aesthetic of the collection remained true to form, and devotees of that subtly sexy ingénue style that Henry has mastered still have plenty to be satisfied with in the mini-skirt suits, prim little collars and cuffs peeping out from underneath neat sweaters and dresses, and high-waisted short shorts topped off by a jacket with a snug looking fur collar.
When the Frenchman did get around experimenting with such things as a mural like screen print, it was still applied to the likes of an adorably flippy little skirt and blouse, and worn with pieces that picked out the dominant to colours to compliment it perfectly.
The Carven girl and her prints charming – they turned out to be a perfect match.
Nicholas Ghesquière has always been one of those fantastically inventive fashion designers who loves to redefine the aesthetics of beauty, but watching this collection you couldn’t help but feel that Cristobàl Balenciaga would be spinning in his grave at the sight of lilac metallic trousers with an elasticated waist making their way down a catwalk that bore the name of his beloved couture house.
Add in some purple fringed pearly zebra print and day glo sweatshirts swiped straight out of the bedroom of a nine year old boy in the Eighties and you’ve got what appears to be some serious battles against good taste.
But then those were just the misses. And they were of coruse eclipsed by a more impressive number of phenomenal hits. Like the futuristic but undeniably lovely Majorelle blue dress punctuated by bronze breast plates, or an arrestingly simple, modest pink blouse paired with an artfully constructed hoop skirt that mixed up metallic and sheer panels for a beautiful feat of engineering.
Ghesquière pushes boundaries and sometimes he pushes them too far, but it’s a necessary evil - so many designers consistently look back in history for their inspiration, and successful as that often is, it’s good to have one who is truly looking forward.
A sort of feminine take on Edward Scissorhands, Demeulemeester may be a designer who embraces the avant-garde, but even she wouldn’t go so far as to replicate the cult film hero’s grotesque metal arms.
So instead we got long black leather gloves snaking up past the elbows on most of the looks, to go with the jagged and spiky hair dos and gothically dark layers, thrown haphazardly over the models’ delicate frames.
The Belgian designer works best with tough, hard-wearing fabrics like leather, and it made a guest appearance here , in her trademark sharply tailored jackets and skinny trousers.
But the focus here was really on fabrics of a more luxurious nature – rich, silky looking coats, sleek crêpe funnel neck dresses, and the real stand-outs, glossy satin biker jackets and rippling skirts in rich, deep purple and midnight blue.
For some, this small departure in palette wouldn’t mean much, but for a loyalist to the gloomy and subversive like Demeulemeester, the introduction of these few jewel tones was an important gesture, and one that made the collection all the more interesting for it.