Nina Ricci S/S 2010 / PFW / Day two

A mere 15 minutes after the announced 8 p.m. start of Peter Copping’s first show for Nina Ricci, house owner and chief executive officer Manuel Puig signaled thumbs-up to an invisible someone, indicating it was time for the girls to hit the runway. His gesture proved prescient. Copping delivered a buoyant premiere, by far the best collection of an assistant-turned-lead-designer in recent memory.

This show, Copping insisted, was about the house’s “signature codes” — bows, lingerie, lace. But despite fashion’s irritating communal fixation on even the sleepiest houses’ “DNA,” in reality, long-ago stylistic chromosomes resonate not a whit with current consumers. (Mme. Chanel may have built a fabulous foundation, but women today buy Karl, not Coco.) When it comes to breaking out the plastic, it’s all about what have you got for me now. Copping debuted a take on overt femininity that commingled dreamlike romanticism with a sportswear comfort level. Working in a divine palette of barely there pastels, he showed pleasantly eccentric layerings — lamé over lace over chiffon over featherweight cashmere; cotton jersey over washed silk over tulle — that boasted more personality than much of spring’s omnipresent flou. Nor was it all about wafting silks as he worked in lovely leathers inset with lace.

Could one see a connection to the girlier side of Marc Jacobs’ work at Louis Vuitton? Absolutely. Copping spent 12 years there, so a shared sensibility is inevitable. Another comparison is perhaps more crucial: that to his Ricci predecessor, Olivier Theyskens, whose gorgeous, very specific dazzlers went bust at retail. Much of Copping’s lineup was as intricate as it was girlish, raising the affordability issue. But amid the froth, he highlighted a smart, tailored side easily accessible to a range of women: a belted cotton coat, a bird’s-eye shirtdress hemmed in lace. This balance of whimsy and good sense might prove just the prescription for reviving Nina Ricci from its recent ailments.

© by WWD / Photos by Giovanni Giannoni

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