Vincent Darré, making his ill-judged debut chez Ungaro, promised to evoke the early glory years of the house, established in 1965 by Emanuel Ungaro after he left an apprenticeship at Balenciaga and was collaborating with the brilliant textile designer Sonia Knapp. The most cursory delve into Ungaro's archives would reveal a master colorist who embraced the space-age sixties, turned to Ballets Russes-inspired hippies deluxe in the seventies, reflected the overdecorated opulence of the eighties, and rediscovered an ethereal lightness of touch in the nineties. Instead of modernizing this great legacy, Darré clung to a palette of crude primaries and eye-popping brights. He opened with funnel-collar jackets and ballooning kimono coats fastened with an evening gown's obi drape that certainly nodded to Ungaro's work as Balenciaga's tailor, although clam-digger pants were an unsuccessful accompaniment. A baby-doll dress in black bubble lace with appliqués of white mink daisies provided another faint echo. From there, the show careened downhill, however, and further experiments with the season's poufy volumes sunk like overcooked soufflés. Even Darré's Diva draperiesa signature of the house for decadeslooked clumsily cobbled together and would have shamed any self-respecting couture workroom.
The delightful Darré, who over the years has proved a witty and spirited stylist at houses like Moschino and Fendi, unwisely accessorized every look with his clumpy and over-scale take on Roger Vivier's iconic sixties Belle de Jour pump (the chic original was created for Yves Saint Laurent), which looked especially ungainly with the long evening gowns. Not that there is much salvation for a Diva-draped gown reinterpreted in dirty white leather. As his clownish models lined up, in dusty old-school fashion, across the back of a set evoking Ungaro's Avenue Montaigne flagship, the audience's stupefaction was palpable. Clearly, Darré, who has proved his credentials elsewhere, has a long way to go to inject fashion credibility into this line.