Olivier Theyskens, the prodigiously talented young Belgian, returned to the Paris scene to make his debut at Rochas and bowled over his audience with a show that was nothing short of magnificent. Having leafed through the annals of 1950s Parisian elegance, Theyskens proceeded to redefine the romance of the suit, cocktail dress and grand evening gown in exquisite couture-grade materials, making them relevant for a whole new generation.
Magical constructions of black Chantilly lace, pink and white taffeta, satin and tulle were melded into shapes and volumes with a dual impact: a respect for the past and the forceful confidence of youth. Tiny skirt suits with narrow shoulders were made in four-tiered silhouettes, consisting of a bolero with a flounce beneath it, then a skirt with another whoosh at the hemline. The spectacular part was in the back, though. Sometimes a frill would start in the sleeve and carry on around the back in a caped furl; other times there was padding or a big bow hidden under lace, which created a swaybacked line unseen since the work of Cristobal Balenciaga.
Fragile, camisole-strapped satin dresses came with rounded bell skirts, petticoated with tulle; other delicately ingenious variations included pencil skirts with spirals of hacked tulle at the waist or constructed entirely out of what looked like white rose petals. Then came the breathtakingly statuesque entrance-making gowns. One standout came in pink taffeta covered with black Chantilly lace, cut close to the torso but bursting into undulations at the shoulder and below the knee. Throughout, Theyskens threw in details just odd enough to keep predictability at bay: plastic see-through pumps, hand-painted abstract flowers, a jolt of orange leather, a royal-blue glove.
It was ravishing. By the end Theyskens had wrought a small revolutiona decisive shift in taste away from the worn-out provocations of edgy and sexual. In 20 minutes he’d blown the dust off the words charming and dainty and ushered in a whole new concept of feminine elegance and sophistication.