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PARIS — Don’t expect Roberto Menichetti, who will show his first collection for Celine here today, to tap into patterns and motifs from exotic places like so many European designers this season. “I was inspired by the allure of Parisian women,” he said during a preview on Wednesday. “It’s a kind of femininity you can’t find anywhere else in the world. I really would like to give [Celine] this kind of allure.”

The fact that Menichetti is already mining Celine’s bourgeois French roots — and referencing French painter Sonia Delaunay — suggests the Italian designer isn’t planning a major overhaul of the 59-year-old brand, which is part of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton fashion empire. “I really believe in the product, and I really believe in this job,” he said between fittings on Wednesday. “Everything has to be real.” Unprompted, Menichetti expressed admiration for the work done by his predecessor, Michael Kors, who exited Celine last spring after a successful, if bumpy, six-year stint to concentrate on building his signature label. “Michael made Celine international,” he said. “I think he did a very nice job.”

Menichetti — whose design career has included working for Claude Montana in Paris, Burberry in London, Jil Sander in Hamburg, Germany, and doing his own signature line, which he continues to show in New York — is no slouch himself in the global department. This American-born resident of Gubbio, a medieval town nestled in Italy’s Umbrian hills, confesses a strong affinity for the U.S. and the sportswear attitude for which it’s known. “I really believe Celine must not be vulgar at all,” he said. “We’re trying to find a new way to be elegant.”

For spring, Menichetti is concentrating on soft shapes, such as shift dresses with slightly bubble-shaped skirts. “It’s extremely important how you can respect and give shape to the body,” the designer said. “Everything caresses.” His fascination with how clothes are constructed is evident in a Grecian-style dress based on the construction of a kilt — and expect to see some dark blues, his signature shade.

This story first appeared in the October 7, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.