After several false starts, you’d be forgiven for shrugging off the news of another designer trying his hand at reviving Courrèges.
The brand has struggled to shake off its sleeping beauty status, but as it marks its 60th anniversary, parent company Artémis, the family holding company of French billionaire François Pinault, is betting on a little-known Louis Vuitton alum to revive its fortunes.
Nicolas Di Felice, in his first stint as artistic director after a career spent working in the shadow of Nicolas Ghesquière, paraded his debut collection in a white cube plonked in an outdoor concert venue in the north of Paris known for its eclectic programming. Titling the collection “I can feel your heartbeat,” Di Felice said it was an ode to the young people grounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
“To me, this place symbolizes freedom,” he explained. Set to a rousing dance track by his friend Erwan Sene, the lineup fused the clean, geometric aesthetic of the Space Age label with a clubland attitude, symbolized by the models’ mile-high boots and streamlined baseball caps.
Di Felice opened with an oversize checked coat that referenced early 1960s Courrèges, though he traded that era’s heavy fabrics for a lightweight wool bonded to a jersey base.
The brand enjoys a thriving vintage following, and the designer made sure to address that constituency with A-line dresses updated with stretchy lycra tops; trim vinyl jackets embossed with the Courrèges logo, and cute trapeze-shaped miniskirts. But there was also plenty here to reel in those who had previously overlooked the label.
Despite having revolutionized women’s fashion in the ’60s, Courrèges can come across as a little prim when viewed through a 21st-century lens. Di Felice used its signature cutouts to sex it up, slicing the midriff out of a skimpy navy dress to leave just a strip of fabric across the chest.
“I think the intention is the same, it’s just that the period has changed,” he said, adding that he often sounds out female friends to find out what feels good. For some, that might be an LBD with a deeply scooped neckline; for others, a graphic black coat layered over a white zip-up top and pooling, flared pants.
Nothing about his approach felt forced or overly conceptual, and the proportions were admirably precise. While the comparisons to Ghesquière are inevitable, Di Felice’s debut was confident enough to suggest he can stand on his own feet, and give Courrèges the wake-up call it has been waiting for.