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Eric Wilson
Mar 01, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

On the slow ride over to the Chloé show on Thursday morning, with traffic at a standstill due to icy roads in Paris, Burberry broke the news that Riccardo Tisci would become its new Chief Creative Officer.

“What???” I blurted, upon reading the e-mail, which I showed to my colleagues.

“What???” said one, who passed my phone to the next, who said, “What???”

Our poor driver must have thought we were all mad, but this is big news in fashion, largely because Tisci was an unexpected hire. And this became the main topic of conversation at the shows, as editors discussed the pros and cons of the appointment. On the plus side, he’s a widely celebrated designer, having successfully repositioned Givenchy in the top echelon of Parisian luxury houses during his long run there. He’s loved by the fashion press and regarded as an advocate for diversity, which aligns with Burberry’s core values and those of contemporary consumers. And he’s versatile in men’s and women’s design. But he’s a bit provocative for such a large publicly traded company, and he’s not British (hardly a prerequisite, but still, this is Burberry).

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The ultimate sign of approval, however, came from investors who pushed Burberry’s stock up by nearly 4 percent, which indicates just how high the stakes are today for making the right match between a designer and a house. And a new generation of designers is testing their worth, too.

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At Chloé, Natacha Ramsay Levi’s second collection further cemented her place at the helm of a label that has hosted more than its share of talent over the decades. Her spring collection was a smash-hit debut, cleverly working the codes of her predecessors within a modernist language all her own. And for fall, she continued that story almost seamlessly, right down to the prancing pony critters that now reappeared on a great green parka. Most of the dresses were lean and fluid, with delicate fabric-covered buttons and a muted palette of brown, beigy brown, and muddled brown, with the occasional pop of gold. But it all seemed weirdly a bit stiff and formal for Chloé’s heritage of lightness, which might have just been a trick of the eye, or perhaps not.

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Meanwhile, her friend and former colleague Julien Dossena has done right by the house of Paco Rabanne. In a few years, he has given that label a fresh energy with a modern-day interpretation of metallic, with more shiny silver leather pants and less skin-slicing steel mesh. While Dossena has wisely ignored the archives of Rabanne thus far, he acknowledged them with his latest collection. Chainmail dresses of silver mesh and metal bits cut into the shapes of flowers announced his reverence for the past with a lot of noise. And by noise, I mean these dresses were practically shouting as they marched past, jingling and jangling as if they were announcing the arrival of Santa. But there was another sound I heard, as I have no doubt these will sell… ka-ching.

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Emanuel Ungaro, meanwhile, has adapted to the times. After a succession of creative directors, the former couture house has repositioned itself – wisely, I might add – with lower prices for ready-to-wear and a sharper focus on accessories. Marco Colagrossi, the new creative director, showed just 20 pieces, most of them T-shirts, sweatshirts, and separates that could be worn casually or put together as party dresses, each with collages of bright floral prints and black-and-white-polka dots. The fun dotted shoes were dyed to match, part of a collaboration with Malone Souliers that was previewed in London. Most of the items will cost under $1,000, which is a sweet spot for designer fashion these days, believe it or not, and they certainly looked friendlier than the Ungaro of recent history.

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