Effectively, this Fall is Peter Copping's debut as a full-fledged runway designer after spending a decade as Marc Jacobs' right-hand man at Louis Vuitton. Though he's been at Nina Ricci since last spring, this collection was the first to be given an official on-schedule show since Olivier Theyskens left the house. What Copping showed certainly demonstrated a distinct departure from Theyskens' high-drama, dark Belgian romance. At first sight, Copping's take on Nina Ricci is much more flowery and safely feminine, full of pretty, just below knee-length satin slipdresses; 3-D haberdashery floral appliqués; and hints of the Belle Époque in bustle-back skirts.

That part of the collection, as well as the four long finale dresses, seemed to be positioning Nina Ricci as the Parisian answer to, say, Alberta Ferretti or Collette Dinnigan. That's a respectable thing to be aiming for commercially, but looked at from the creative angle, Copping still has to assert himself as a designer with his own voice. A lot that was on the runway looked too much like holdovers from his days at Vuitton, where Marc Jacobs handed him sole authorship of cruise and pre-collections. Still, new house, new start; and by next season, maybe the distance will have given Copping the chance to whip up a new raison d'être for the Ricci label.