'Lady' is a politically loaded term: maybe it's just straight-on politically incorrect. Any die-hard dyed-in-the-wool feminist, I'm sure, would bristle at the use of such a word, but for Peter Copping's vision of the Nina Ricci customer, 'Lady' seems like just the right term.
It does this season at least. In the past, Copping has been fixated on the idea of the 'Ricci Girl', saccharine-sweet, knotted up with a little bow, and intensely, often insipidly, rose-tinted. However, for Autumn/Winter 2011 Copping kicked his Ricci girl out of the bassinet and made a woman of her. He titled the show 'Portrait of a Lady', but the first outfit really told the story: a vaguely A-line, vaguely flirtatious black skirt with a fillip of movement, a definitively waisted black jacket, and a giant black fur hat that would give Joan Collins' Dynasty courtroom numbers a run for their money.
If that doesn't really sound like anything we've seen on the Ricci runway before, that seemed to be Copping's point. He bucked just about ever signature he's thusfar established for the house - rather than focussing, as he has, on the life of a woman whose day only begins after the cocktail hour, Copping offered an entire day's wardrobe, filled with chunky wraparound coats, neat boucle Chanel-esque suits with chain-belts intact, and even wide velvet trousers in rich green and merlot (hardly a Ricci speciality). In short, Copping exerted himself. This collection felt like hard work - for him and the superb team at Nina Ricci, that is. For the audience watching, it wafted past effortlessly, like all the best fashion should.
If, at first glance, Ricci seemed reinvented this season, on closer inspection the signatures Copping established were still evident. The lingerie detailing, for instance, was still there - but the Neopolitan ice-cream pink and baby blue came in leather for a slightly sick twist, while spotted tule appeared crumpled and shredded. One floor-length velvet dress had faggotted seams like a vintage camisole, another was inset about the midriff with a chantilly-lace corset which looked strict and sexy rather than coy.
That, in fact, was the message throughout - even when Copping's signature sugarplum fairy chiffon drifted out, printed with rose-petals and swagged into a halter neck, there was a blowsy, sultry sensuality to it rather than a winsome innocence. In short, the Ricci girl has definitely grown up - what's more, she's bagged herself a hell of a wardrobe in the process.