Showing in their hometown for the first time since September 2001, Clements Ribeiro was warmly welcomed back to London as a small sign that Paris is not, perhaps, the absolute pinnacle of designer ambition. They made their comeback, however, whistling a Frenchified tune, inspired by Jane Birkin and the inevitable ’60s. That meant an opening of a little cream jumper dress over a gray turtleneck, a princess-line tweed coat and an oversize striped cashmere sweater masquerading as a dress. Clearly, the jeune-fille Parisian mood of their Cacharel consultancy has left its mark.
Suzanne Clements said that the duo’s decision to show in Paris had been a purely pragmatic moveto get seen in the season of the 9/11 crisisand that the reason for their return was to give her and her husband, Inacio Ribeiro, more time between staging their own presentation and the Cacharel collection. The trouble is that, as fashion moves on at its breakneck pace, you don’t ever get to go back to where you started from.
Clements Ribeiro shone at the moment when cashmere knitwear was reborn as a fashion vehicle. Their infinitely varied striped or wittily patterned sweaters virtually redefined the category, beginning a worldwide economic cycle that peaked at the turn of the millennium. Wisely, they are still turning out the knits that made their name, in pale pastel patterns and variously banded stripes, but it’s hard to recapture the original excitement. Instead, the pair concentrated on Bermuda-shorts suits, swirly multicolor prints and high-waisted A-line frocks and coats. It went with the flow of the trend nicely enough, but it didn’t chart any new territory.