Waiting for the Nina Ricci show to begin, “Vanity Fair”’s Michael Carl wondered as to the identity of the elderly gentleman who sat down next to him under the green tent on the grounds of Les Invalides. Carl soon surmised that the nearest building on the grounds of the former military compound, now a museum, houses a veterans’ retirement home, and this gentleman was likely a resident. No one asked him to leave; rather he sat, took stock of the assembling crowd and left, his curiosity satiated before the main event.
It made for a poignant prelude to a show in which Guillaume Henry romanced a military motif. He took his inspiration from that most intriguing of branches, the French Foreign Legion, itself much romanced, the subject of love and lampoon in many a movie. Henry took a pretty approach to his theme, pretty as in pink and lavender and interludes of long, swingy fringe.
The first look out established the construct: a putty-toned brass-buttoned jacket with utilitarian pockets and seriously pointed “cat’s eye” shoulders. By pairing it with stretch-lace bicycle shorts, Henry addressed the daytime casualization conundrum while still keeping the look polished. Alternatives to bicycle shorts would come in jodhpurs (a tad wide across the hips) and easy walking shorts.
While the tailoring wasn’t strict per se, there’s typically an austerity inherent in a fashion invocation of military tropes. Henry countered this with shimmering silk fringe that worked the festive side of ceremonial grandeur in a top over pants and dress with festooned bodice and epaulets. By contrast, an airy shiftdress sprouting tufts of feathers and worn with a flapper headdress projected pure frivolity.
Some looks tried too hard for novelty resulting in moments of awkwardness — dresses derived from legionnaires’ aprons; the excessive shoulder tricks. But overall, Henry fared well, delivering his military moment with a gentle touch.