Absent from the runways for the better part of this decade, Xuan-Thu Nguyen took the long road home, or at least back to Paris’ couture where she had first shown in 2009.
This summer collection marked her third since her return last year under the label Xuan, and in her own admission, a darker collection than is customary. The idea of a road stretching out was there, in volumes figured as deflated lengths of fabric, but it was more metaphoric than biographic. “Everything you do takes time, and that’s a bad thing. It’s the way it is,” she said after the show.
Those with long memories will recall a delicate palette and floral elements, and perhaps even the “fox” stole, her take on fur transmuted into a lovely floral wreath — and here they were. As a child, the Dutch-Vietnamese designer had wanted to become a florist, so her clothes were bouquets.
Now, they were delivered with contemporary touches. One puffy posy was a Xuan version of a puffer jacket. A snowy coatdress was festooned with white ruffles. Later, an LBD had stretched petal shapes tumbling down the shoulder — the shadow of a bloom.
Back to that leave of absence: It hadn’t been time away from her métier, as the designer focused on her private clientele, rather than push for expansion of her then ready-to-wear line. Why return at all?: “It’s now or never. It felt right,” she said. “Couture is growing because it’s a craft that is unique and with personality. That’s something people are starting to appreciate again.”
In Nguyen’s case, it brought her back on schedule while allowing her time to stop and smell the roses. Now so can we.