When Guillaume Henry got the invitation to bring Carven to Pitti, he knew at once, he said, that he wanted to present the brand, not the collection. Clothes make the brand, of course, but the show he staged tonight—emphasis on show—was more spirited than a typical runway romp. "It's Paris meets Firenze," he said, and meant it quite in earnest: He brought with him a French tradition, the waiters' race, hired an Italian band, and rented out a city velodrome. As costumed waiters made their way around the track, their progress barked along in Italian by an announcer, racing-style, they were joined by Carven-clad models. Afterwards, a Florentine military band played them off.
With so much pomp and circumstance, it was inevitable that the clothes would play second fiddle to the mise en scene. Up close, they conformed to the Caven type Henry's been plying for several seasons. The goods skew young. Though Henry, who once cited little brothers and childhood memories as touchstones, now name drops Jon-Jon Kennedy, the look still has room to grow. (That's Jon-Jon, mind you, not John, Jr.) He spoke of mixing casual elements with business ones, "the office meets the weekend." In some cases, the meetup was literal, as with oxford-cloth sleeves growing from a casual denim shirt. Elsewhere, it was stylistic, as with shorts (short shorts) with tailored garb.
A garden-fresh feel ran through much of the collection. A botanical print was a major push, for both clothes and accessories. It marked the return to Carven of its former totem color, green. Before the show, Henry explained that the house founder, Mrs. Carven, began her line post-World War II, when rations meant that cloth was scarce. She cut a dress from leftover green-and-white-striped deck-chair fabric and had herself an unlikely hit. Thereafter, green was never absent.
Henry has avoided it all three years he's been at the helm, but he's emboldened himself to bring it back. That's a gesture of confidence and ownership, not unlike racing waiters during showtime. Love it or leave it—for the record, both reactions ran through the crowd today—the designer has made Carven his own.