Larger-than-life butterflies and a front lawn shaped like a giant daisy greeted guests at the British designer Giles Deacon's debut presentation for Ungaro in Paris yesterday. Deacon, who became creative director of this grand French fashion house in spring this year, said he wanted to take it back to its distinctly French roots – and he has done just that.
As pretty as the proverbial picture, perfectly groomed models of all ages, champagne glasses in hand, chatted away happily in bijou cocktail dresses and evening gowns that had just the coquettish appeal this label was once famous for. The colours were gorgeous: powdery shades of rose, violet and aquamarine. Ungaro is one of the last remaining couture houses and women still travel to its Avenue Montaigne headquarters to order precious, made-to-measure designs created by some of the most accomplished technicians in the world. Deacon was clearly reminding his audience of this fact, even though this was a ready-to-wear collection. Jewelled embroideries, fluttering feathers and fine lace more than nodded to this great Parisian craft-form.
The designer, in attendance in a dapper grey flannel suit, said he had found the aforementioned daisy motif in the Ungaro archive. It dates back to 1968 when it found its way on to clothes – more than 40 years on, it adorned purses, sunglasses and a neat, boxy shift dress, lending a sweet and youthful optimism to the whole. So too did a handbag shaped like a shaggy, pink sheep, which came complete with its very own jewelled scarf and shoes. "They made it in the atelier," said Deacon, who is known for such irreverent gestures.
Oranges, lemons and the odd pink grapefruit were splashed liberally across the clothing at Stella McCartney's show, which took place earlier in the day. Despite the majestic location – the Paris Opéra is quite a venue by anyone's standards – this was the only obviously decorative touch in a collection that was otherwise minimal throughout. The theme was not surprising, given that the equally spare aesthetic the designer first brought to the label six months ago is now not only being worn by more than a few high-profile fashion followers, but is also among the most widely imitated on the high street.
This time round, the look was more overtly masculine, and as opposed to long and slender, the silhouette was predominantly oversized. Tailored jackets in pale and interesting colours had broad but rounded shoulders, while trousers were fitted and high-waisted, falling to just above the ankle.
A softer style was evident in the pleated silk gowns that revealed more than a hint of shapely leg when the models walked. Look out next spring and summer for the sleeveless coat, seen here as well as at Céline yesterday, and for stiff roomy denim that mimics the hospital gown. Finally, and continuing the trend for shoes that, by the stiletto-fixated fashion follower's standards, might be described as ugly, out came polished brown sandals with chunky, low heels that were more 1970s school run than Parisian catwalk in flavour.