A fashion week, it seems, is nothing these days without a high-profile filching of London talent to spice up a moribund label. New York had Marios Schwab at Halston, Milan has Christopher Kane at Versus, and never one to be left out, Paris bagged the third of London's homegrown boys-done-good, with Richard Nicoll making his debut at Cerruti. Nicoll's hiring was the great leap - rather than eased into his position with a pain-free presentation to introduce his vision for the label, he was thrown in at the deep end with a catwalk show sandwiched into the schedule between Hermes and Miu Miu. The other great leap, of course, is cementing what Cerruti really means for today. Kane was basically born for Versace, while Halston was reheated for Schwab by Marco Zanini and a few lukewarm 'design team' presentations. Nicoll came to Cerruti stone cold and sober - or at least, at one of the soberest of fashion moments we've seen in over a decade.
For his first collection, Nicoll evidently ferreted through the archives and latched on to images of the classic Cerruti suit circa 1992. In fact, it looks as if he may have done this before his London Fashion Week collection, as there was evident crossover between the two. Take the draped asymmetric shapes, the deconstructed men's tailoring, and the subtle colour palette of blue, grey, taupe and a burnt-out orange. We saw them a few weeks ago in a basement in London: could Nicoll really excite us with them again in Paris?
It seems the answer is a resounding yes. The same ideas may have been there, but there was a distinctly different story to Nicoll's Cerruti offering: fewer of the raw edges of his own label, more of a distinctly Italian polish. Draping was a leitmotif, a quick flip of fabric looped around a belt and falling into a trouser leg or strict skirt, shirt-dresses pleated across the waist into soft folds. Even hardcore fetish went flacid, with powdery rubber in elastoplast pink swathed rather than stretched into brief cocktail dresses, t-shirts and long-line skirts. This was part of a slightly punk feel evoked in leather trousers and mohair knits - keeping the Linder Sterling spirit, evidently, albeit in the Italian language of luxe rather than English eccentricity.
To borrow from Sterling's eponymous album art, Nicoll's message was simple - never mind the bollocks, here's the clothes. Once again, it was satisfying to see a young talent so thoroughly and refreshingly engaged with what real women will really want to wear. Add another 'really' to that, actually, as Nicoll's collection had an instant desirability. And, it must be said, after a season awash with beige after beige, Nicoll's colour palette was an exciting pop of invention. Every shade of blue, through institutional shades of Air Force and NHS, to City Girl navy and a bright pop of turquoise, delicate burgundy and maroon, and a vibrant Ikat-esque print splashed across georgette. It all seemed more Nicoll than Cerruti, but his feel for the label will come. And as for re-working that sensational Working Woman tailoring he showed in London, Nicoll is simply astute enough to know that you don't stop when you're on to a good thing.