Cacharel is to France what Liberty prints are to England, or L.L.Bean is to America: a heritage brand that owes its appeal more to sentimentality than cutting-edge style—and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Often the best fashion moments come from an emotional reaction, as opposed to a sober bit of chin stroking about the sophistication of cut.
But in the past few years, Cacharel has become better known for its revolving door of designers than its association with seventies vacations in Deauville. Moreover, the designers who came and went—including Britain's Clements Ribeiro and Eley Kishimoto—had pretty much taken the sentimentality shtick as far as it could go, with their sepia-tinted prints for the brand. For a while, Cacharel looked in danger of miring itself so much in the past it could well be swept back there.
But Cédric Charlier, the latest designer to take control, has done something very smart in this, his second collection for the label: Not only is he taking Cacharel forward, but he is taking it toward a gap that very much needed filling. Now that Miu Miu has gone so defiantly upmarket (never refer to it as a diffusion brand in Miuccia Prada's presence—that's a hot tip), there is little left for quirky teens and twentysomethings who want to look good but also pay their rent. Ladies, meet Cacharel.
Charlier—who worked with the impressive likes of Michael Kors at Celine and Saint Alber Elbaz at the Church of Lanvin—played on Cacharel's floral associations in this collection, but with a darker and thus more grown-up twist. Mini and oversize rosette patterns were against a black background, undercutting the sweetness, and there were some excellent floral dresses with sophisticated folds and pleating. Similarly, the winter coats were oversize with shoulders sloping downward, proving that Cacharel can join in on the trends seen in some of the more haute labels this season—not least at Lanvin, where there were some strikingly similar toppers. Alber, you have trained your man well.