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Nina Ricci

In 1932, 50-year-old Italian-born French designer Maria Ricci founded the house of Nina Ricci with her son Robert. Mom handled the designs—romantic gowns draped ever so prettily—while her son looked after the finances and the fragrances (Robert deserves credit for L'Air du Temps, the house's signature scent). Designers came and went in the decades following Ricci's death in 1970, but the first one of any real note to take charge was Lars Nilsson in 2003. Nilsson found himself at the helm of an indistinct brand—Nina Ricci lacked the identity other great French houses from that era seemed to have in spades—and his attempt to find a firm footing for the label were mixed. However, he succeeded in doubling sales in three years, leaving it in better shape than when he'd found it. Nilsson resigned in 2006; his successor, Olivier Theyskens, came straight from just-shuttered Rochas and took the label in his own direction, repositioning Nina Ricci as a go-to house for standout gowns with an edge. Commercial success reportedly proved more elusive, however, and Theyskens showed his final collection, a critically acclaimed outing with gothic overtones and gravity-defying heels, for Fall 2009. He was replaced by Peter Copping, formerly women's studio director at Louis Vuitton. Copping's first ready-to-wear show for the house, for Spring 2010, played to Ricci's romantic past but kept an eye on wearability.

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