Eye-Popping. Nina Ricci AW23

It’s a new day at Nina Ricci. After years of either inconsistent visions of various creative directors or viral ideas that never went beyond the runway, the historic Parisian maison needs an assertive path to take in order to be a name that sparks true interest and desirability among contemporary customers. Harris Reed, the young designer known for his gender-fluid approach at his highly-dramatic, London-based namesake label, and dressing super-stars like Harry Styles and Florence Pugh, is here to refresh Nina Ricci. His debut collection was a loud and bold statement filled with over-the-top shapes, eye-popping colours and psychedelic prints. First modeled by Styles at the BRITs, the tailoring looked like it took its cues from Bianca and Mick Jagger’s matching 1971 wedding suits – down to the extra-wide brimmed hats. Runway-spanning circle skirts leaned perilously close to costume, just like most of the offering. And then there was the show-closing hobble skirt – the model who wore it deserves a prize for not toppling over. Except for all the camp-y looks and downpour of gimmicks, there was no depth in this debut or wider understanding of the brand. Not speaking of actual ready-to-wear, which was pretty much non-existent… Where Reed is way out ahead of most of the Parisian brands is with his cast. Precious Lee opened the show, and as she vamped for the cameras, it was a reminder of the too narrow and old-fashioned visions of beauty seen elsewhere this week. Clothes-wise, Reed has a long, long way to go.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Sharper & Bolder. Nina Ricci AW21

We want to give a sharp and curated vision, not just in the end result but in the development as well,” one part of Nina Ricci‘s creative duo, Lisi Herrebrugh, told Vogue. “From the beginning, we now work from a limited amount of sketches. It puts a certain pressure on the garments, but in the end, they get a lot of attention too.” Her words could have captioned the post-lockdown “wardrobe reset” many are now talking about in the fashion landscape. “It’s about not having endless amounts of choices, but instead being really focused,” said Rushemy Botter, driving home the idea.Tasked with preserving Nina Ricci’s haute couture legacy for the present and future, the designers understand that a certain adaptability is necessary to create a relevant product. They want to “ground couture memories in everyday ways,” as Herrebrugh said. Their collection conveyed – through construction and illusion – couture shapes in garments devoid of the trussed-up constriction those structures would traditionally entail. “An outspoken shape that keeps its functionality,” Herrebrugh said, demonstrating the easiness of a lime green suit jacket that casually zipped into a couture volume. In another take on the same effect, an easy sheathlike dress was emblazoned with a print of a jacket collaged from archive pictures, creating a kind of trompe l’oeil. If you stripped away the furry shoes and Insta-perfect bucket hats that fancified their expression, it was a pretty realistic proposal for a post-confinement look.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

She’s A Lady. Nina Ricci SS21

It seems that Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh are finally finding their ground at Nina Ricci. In the storied salons of the maison‘s headquarters on rue Francois 1er, its designer duo had a generational confession to make: they use their phones for all kinds of creative tasks, including sketching. “They’re not beautiful sketches. Just quick things,” Herrebrugh noted, while her partner Botter added that he does observe “old school” procedures, too. In contrast, perhaps, to some members of the Paris establishment, these young designers’ natural relationships with their phones were what made this season’s digital show format so instinctive to them. They presented their Nina Ricci collection through the (imagined) recorded screen of an iPhone, scrolling the viewer through their research process, from Google searches to YouTube clips and exchanges on iMessage. What it didn’t reveal was the actual inspiration behind the collection: L’Air du Temps, the institutional fragrance Nina Ricci launched after the Second World War. Light and elegant, it cut a decided contrast to the dense perfumes of the old world. “It was a message of hope, optimism, and revival. That’s what we wanted to bring with this collection,” Herrebrugh said. Its flacon, designed by the Art Nouveau glass artist René Lalique, informed the cuts, colors, and movements of dresses. They had the inimitable touch of this designer duo: a splicing between the couture heritage of Nina Ricci and the swimwear techniques that are their personal obsession. The nature of that marriage – not unlike L’Air du Temps itself – is confrontational, but Herrebrugh and Botter are sticking to their guns and continuing to refine their take on Nina Ricci. “I feel like there’s a balance in this collection between our tailoring background and the codes of the house. We’re finding our own fluidity,” Herrebrugh said, referring to the menswear label they run on the side, which carries Botter’s name and earned them the Nina Ricci gig in the first place. Ironically, the most unassuming garment made the biggest impact: a tech-y pleated translucent blue blouse, which had the digital lightness expressed in the meeting between iPhones and the L’Air du Temps flacon. It was quite hypnotizing. Much like both of those inventions, the simplest designs are often the most enduring and made for a modern-day lady.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.