Backstage at Guy Laroche, creative director Marcel Marongiu named Claire McCardell as this season’s starting point. In a way, it seemed funny to hear him cite a designer other than the one whose name fronts the house he works for—especially when he likely has access to a treasure trove of source material. But to view the collection as a total statement, not the sum of its parts, is to better appreciate how Marongiu considered the freshness of McCardell’s daywear back in the ’50s. For Spring he was trying to provoke a similar feeling, rather than channel her designs.

Marongiu opened the show with a grouping of leather color-blocked minidresses and continued with slim-line navy overalls made feminine with the addition of bikini tops or bare backs. The languid ribbed knits expressed Marongiu’s word of the day, “freedom,” as did the maxi slipdresses covered in kinetic geometric prints. For textural contrast, he deftly played with a crosshatched leather and an exclusive Malhia Kent Lurex-and-raffia tweed. After that, the cocktail dresses paneled with amorphous Plexiglas pieces seemed extraneous, mostly because they felt neither of McCardell’s day nor ours.

Yet Marongiu eventually revealed two additional inspirations: The oversize buttons on the well-tailored jackets were a nod to his grandfather, a general in the Swedish army; and the tweed’s blue-and-yellow mix, which conjured the palette of Starry Night, again riffed on the designer’s Swedish roots. “The collection is actually an homage to my mother because she used to dress in a quirky way,” said Marongiu. “And I owe her a lot.” Now isn’t that the worthiest starting point of all?

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