The best way to describe the first collection by Guillaume Henry for the house of Nina Ricci is to say it was a palette cleanser; not just in the sense of breaking from the codes and concepts built by Henry’s diametrically different predecessors, but also in the understated and generally muted aesthetic he introduced to the house.
“With the first collection, I didn’t want to express any fashion concept. Just the idea of, who is the Nina Ricci woman? And as a base, what would she wear?” explained the designer about his goal for the debut collection.
Who is that woman?
Well, for one thing, she has very little in common with the playful and colorful Carven girl that Henry built from scratch for that long dormant brand. Let’s say that the Nina Ricci woman is the Carven girl all grown up. She has moved past her sartorial experimental years when she was trying to discover what style worked for her. Now she knows what she likes, what works for her body, and what makes her look good.
For the 36-year-old designer, that meant stripping things back to the essentials. A slightly oversized peacoat that left just the model's fingers peaking out. Simple-looking T-shirt dresses in organzas, or for evening, covered in iridescent sequins. Roomy patchwork sweaters blending panels of different patterned weaves. And tops or coats covered in fringing designed to give the austere base a sense of languid movement.
But as quiet as this collection appeared, Henry layered in quite a lot of thought. For example, some of those t-shirt dresses were first embroidered, then dyed and finally washed to give them, what the designer called "a soul."
"I wanted this collection to be — and it is not a bad word in my mouth — simple. Because I didn’t want it to get lost,” said Henry.
The collection did not get lost, but its enveloping restraint made it just a tad too taciturn. Here's hoping that next season we will see Henry's Nina Ricci woman own her space in the world with a bit more force.