Olivier Theyskens has been a chief instigator of fashion's heady two-year affair with recherché femininity. Romancing the conventions of Parisian couture, he has done things with lace, tulle, flowers, and flounces that effectively put "edginess" out of style.
One of the designer's works in progress is the revival of the formal skirtsuit. For spring, it came in plissé silk, detailed with swags at the top of the sleeve, or in variations on boleros and pencil skirts, with organza edging adding extra volume. Another favored theme was structured lingerie, referenced in trompe l'oeil pieces that looked as if the backs of dresses were open to show bra straps or as if the fronts of skirts were falling down to reveal the structure of an old-fashioned girdle.
Theyskens' distinctive, slightly strange color palette helped keep things from getting too sugary: odd aquas, metallic greens, and sapphire blues were mixed, sometimes in floral patterns, with black and white. That, along with the floppy silk roses pinned on the bosom of dresses, his appliqués of eyelash lace over flower prints, and the grand bustier gowns with their naked shoulders and sweeping petticoated trains, has crystallized a Rochas look that is unmistakable. In a few short seasons, that is quite an achievement; but given fashion's continual headlong rush forward, such slow, methodical moves can seem almost imperceptible on a runway.