VARIETY PACK
THERE WERE A VARIETY OF INTRIGUING IDEAS AS THE PARIS SPRING COLLECTIONS CONTINUED. GIAMBATTISTA VALLI MADE HIS DEBUT AT EMANUEL UNGARO WITH SIMPLIFIED VERSIONS OF THE HOUSE’S LAVISH MIXES, WHILE JULIEN MACDONALD USED LOTS OF CORD, STRING AND TWINE IN HIS FIRST GIVENCHY COLLECTION. VERONIQUE BRANQUINHO WENT FOR SEVENTIES-STYLE SPORTSWEAR, AND PETER SPELIOPOULOS CAME UP WITH RELAXED BOHO LOOKS FOR CERRUTI.

Emanuel Ungaro: You have to hand it to Emanuel Ungaro for the speed and discretion with which he relinquished creative control of his ready-to-wear collection. No endless, Ripkin-esque anticipation, nor a teary last collection. Instead, earlier this week Ungaro simply announced the transfer of power to his creative director Giambattista Valli, and, following the showing of the spring collection on Wednesday, it was Valli who took a bow. “Season after season, he has shown that he understands the spirit of the house,” Ungaro told WWD. “It’s like a bird. When he has wings, he has to get in the air.”
Although Valli exhibited some trouble staying airborne, he did indicate how he will make the label his own: by simplifying the lavish mixes that are an Ungaro signature. While no one would call these clothes plain, they displayed a certain restraint, especially in the early going, as Valli opened with a group of natural linens cut for provocation, but with an ease of attitude. Similarly, soft pantsuits in jersey or black chiffon with a ribbon at the waist had a nonchalant glamour, some dresses, a graceful elegance, and he did his part for fashion’s favorite ongoing theme with pretty floaty tops over pants.
Still, Valli didn’t purge the Ungaro woman of her eccentricities, hence, the huge-floral-print pants wrapped at the ankle harem style — everybody stop, please! — and dresses with string, lavish glass beading or sparkly trompe l’oeil cord-and-tassel decorations. But going boho always presents its challenges, especially when one has such a hard act to follow, and Ungaro is a master of the genre. Valli clearly has a way to go, and he won’t get there on the strength of blue jeans veiled in bunched black tulle.

Givenchy: “This is the future,” Julien Macdonald announced before his first Givenchy ready-to-wear show. “We will no longer reference the Bettina blouse.” Though the designer certainly found Betty and her ilk intriguing enough last July when he debuted his couture, now he has a new lady on his mind. She’s the modern Givenchy customer and, as he notes, she’s audacious and chic. To woo her, Macdonald first set out to tone down the aggressive attitude the label took on during Alexander McQueen’s watch. But while he didn’t look to McQueen for the answers, his look owed something to Nicolas Ghesquiere’s Grecian gals for Callaghan instead. All the same, recreating an aura of sophisticated femininity around the Givenchy name is not an easy task, and he’s off to a promising start.
Macdonald’s solution? Though he went in for the obvious — light layered chiffon — it was his yards and yards of twine, string and cord that defined the look. And Julien knows more ways to work a rope than a Boy Scout. A stiff white riding coat and cropped jacket were detailed at the waist and shoulder with subtly wrapped cord and paired with swishing skirts made from chiffon stacked high. A sheer chiffon tunic boasted a wrapped rope neckline that slid off the shoulder just so, and even his super-sexy little tank dress came with its straps twisted into a loose coil. Stringing things along, Macdonald laced up the waists of those flouncy skirts and created outrageously fringed bags and wide macrame belts.
The mood was mildly Mediterranean, touching on both Grecian goddesses with their featherweight draping and the insistent froufrou of Spain’s flamenco dancers. But MacDonald didn’t let that geography get the better of him. Better yet, he came through with his promise. There wasn’t a Bettina blouse in sight.

Veronique Branquinho: There can hardly be a designer out there who hasn’t fallen under the spell of Seventies-style sportswear at one time or another. And why not? It’s nostalgia and wearability all rolled up into one. For spring, Veronique Branquinho presented her take, and while the era’s brassy rebels might be the draw for most, this Belgian’s vision was as distilled as they come. With what one can only hope was a hint of irony, she sent out clothes so practical they were hyper-real — a proper navy sweater and windowpane plaid skirt, a classic khaki trench, a bevy of striped oxford shirts and a blue blazer paired with acid-washed jeans.
But while the look could have gone flat — and gone flat fast — Branquinho’s dancers’ dresses with their zingy diagonal stripes were anything but dull, especially when worn over her bright striped leggings. Meanwhile, for that dancing queen’s eccentric cousin, the designer presented knits, each with a fretwork spiral across its front with wooden beads that were caught in the web, and some of the most pristine peasant dresses around. The latter, when tied at the waist with a macrame belt that whispered, “Kumbaya,” could have served as the perfect evening look for any oh-so-wild girl heading off to vespers.

Cerruti: The house may be known for its tailoring, but this season, Peter Speliopoulos’s look for Cerruti is plenty relaxed. “It has never been theatrical,” he said during a small presentation in the company’s showroom. And for spring, the mood is especially low-key. Speliopoulos took his cues from the world of denim, if not literally, then by working with soft, washed fabrics and faded florals, all as comfortably cut as a favorite pair of jeans. Puff-sleeved peasant tops came in filmy chiffon. Knits were done up baby-doll style with slightly belled sleeves, while the designer’s easy new pants came in mattress-ticking stripes or washed jacquards. It all had a subtle boho flair that, as the designer remarked, revolved around a feeling of tenderness. Even the most structured looks, his boyish blazers in sueded linen, maintained the mood. To complete an easy wardrobe for his super-laid-back muse, Speliopoulos also launched a Cerruti bag and shoe collection this season, full of simple sandals that will suit her perfectly.

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