Aside from the phenomenon of Karlie Kloss' walk, there was no grand finale at Paco Rabanne. An omission by design. After a high-drama debut last season, creative director Manish Arora wanted the big surprise to be the lack of a big surprise. He set wearability as his goal and looked for cues in heyday-era fans like Françoise Hardy and Brigitte Bardot. In fact, some of the freshest dresses were re-creations of Bardot's iconic stripey metal shift, a testament to the power of Rabanne's codes. Arora's versions are lightened up with discs in silicon and even royal blue ponyskin, a testament to his skill in updating them.
But his role as the new creative blood in a storied French house is probably one of the hardest of its kind. That's partly because of the specificity of what Rabanne did. You can easily shoot too far out of the Rhodoid park or stay stiflingly close to it. Arora seems to have a sense of balance, and a bottomless bag of new ideas. Some work, like the discs woven into highly wearable cardigans and pullover knits, and some don't, like the paneling of fluttery silk over metal disc dresses.
But it seemed like what sometimes weighed down this collection was Arora's attempt at a streamlined space-age sensibility, particularly in tailoring. It came across as less youthful than the Rabanne spirit should be. And a move into seventies disco decadence eventually turned a bit retro and convoluted.
Though for a good night out, Arora's Le 69 bags, now in gold and iridescent clutches, seem like just the thing. Sure enough, last season the bag business far outpaced the ready-to-wear at an enviable slate of stores. Arora will surely change some of those ratios with this collection, but the shift remains a work in progress.