Back to school. That was the theme presented by Carven’s Guillaume Henry this season. Located in the quaint Club Sportivo on the Via del Fosso Macinante, guests were treated to a bohemian picnic on the central football field. Not content with just providing dinner, Henry also treated us to a show in the form of a bizarre sports day meets band practice performance. Highlighting his penchant for Parisian kookiness, Henry’s models appeared flanked by racing waiters who lapped the field trays in hand (a traditional French pastime - of course). Next up came a nod to Florence with a comical military band that rounded things off as us guests munched on into the night.
‘It was really about a mood not looks or trends’, Henry stated afterwards. True. The clothes did take a back seat to the theatrical happenings. But that was the intention. This was a coming of age showcase for the designer, not the time to show off technical prowess but rather an occasion for Guillaume to cement his playful – and ever-increasingly bankable - vision for Carven.
If previous collections have previously been dubbed ‘young’ this was positively pre-natal, exemplified by a cosy jersey sweater - similar to those little boys wear at camp - embroidered with floral cross-stitch and a Carven motif. Henry continued his fascination with uniforms (apt, perhaps, given how much Madame Carven loved her air hostesses). Models were clad in little tailored short-suits (only eight of the twenty-five models sported trousers) and matching shirt and tie combos in tablecloth-checked fabric. Little white socks were pulled up neatly, teamed with brightly coloured trainers or loafers.
The palette was bold and crayon-like, cheery red, inky navy and crisp mauve. The tangy orange from Carven’s womenswear resort collection also made an appearance on simple, childish accessories. Also making a guest cameo was a sweet little garden print – I’d like to imagine that it was an ode to Madame Carven herself, whose very first collection was made from a ditsy floral fabric found in 1945, during a stay at the Comtesse de Vedrines’ chateau, when a heavy storm cause the ceiling to collapse revealing yards and yards of stored material. A healthy dash of Carven green also finally popped up – it had been markedly absent from Guillaume’s previous offerings - most notably on a quilted jacket with neat camel sleeves (a lighter version of those shown for A/W 12). The general effect was similar to Henry’s previous offerings - all prim and proper, the models a vision of Petit Princes and Sound of Music pre-teens. Just one anomaly stood out, the rebel of the class clad in a classic leather biker, a savvy commercial piece.
Explaining the picnic set up after the show Henry commented, ‘I wanted it to be like a happy French wedding. The kind where everyone can come.’ That’s the crux of Carven, top of the fashion class for openness and accessibility. Yet, while the general effect of this collection was pleasing and amusing it’ll be interesting to see if these school-boy looks lose Carven any of its ‘working man’ client base, who have previously turned to the label for sumptuous basics. Fun aside, men want to be men after all, not boys.