PARIS, France — Tension. That's what creativity is all about: exploiting the tension while finding a balance between opposites — invention and commerce, concept and reality. There is a lot of tension in Guillaume Henry's work for the house of Nina Ricci. You can almost physically feel his struggle as he looks for the key to adapt the jolie madame soft codes of the maison for the present tense.
It's not an easy task, all things considered. Resisting the winds of eccentricity, which have taken the fashion world by storm, Henry has kept his version of Nina Ricci focused on exploiting the tension between sensuality and strictness with a decidedly Parisian je ne sais quoi.
So far, Henry's experiments with mannish tailoring, slinky draping and juxtapositions of materials have produced mixed results. He has not yet fully set his own template, but he certainly has a point of view.
The collection Henry showed today was a continuation of Spring, featuring a similarly dark colour palette, identical glossy surfaces and the same mysteriously carnal aura. The line up alternated between oversized outerwear and ultra-feminine dresses, womanly shapes and masculine firmness. Sometimes it worked — the high-neck lace and velvet dresses redolent of the work of Martine Sitbon were particularly noteworthy — but other times it looked a little clumsy, like the collection was simultaneously going in too many different directions.
The best pieces were the coats and the intense red dresses. Henry always features one or two in his shows and they are invariably the standouts — eye-catching but never vulgar. It is a telling sign. Maybe that's where Nina Ricci's new codes should be set.