Chic. It's an overused and much-misconstrued term in fashion. When you think about it, what does it really mean? That was the abstract thought process that informed Marco Zanini's latest collection for Rochas, and to be honest it sounds a little like the Freudian puzzle of what women really want. It seems Zanini answered both in one fell swoop - what women really want, in their wardrobes at least, is Rochas. And that's because Rochas is chic.
It is this season at least - and Zanini does like a U-turn. Last season, he went for a touch of the twenties, the season before it was the sixties. Both of those are moments now experiencing a revival, so Zanini was merely ahead of the curve. This time, he hit it bang on. This is the kind of collection that, as a fashion critic, you want to use lots and lots of words to describe, just to fully express how wonderful it felt to see. But in fact, like the best kind of fashion, it doesn't need many words at all.
Zanini did terribly clever things today. He cut giant cocooning coats from raw-edged felted wool in navy, black and lingerie-pink, threw them over crop-hem trousers or pleated little skirts, crammed astrakhan cossack hats on top, stuck the models in long-toed kitten heels. It had you scrambling for terminology to describe what he was doing. I scrawled two words, big and bold: 'chic' and 'right'. That's just how it felt.
This collection was gratifying to watch. It felt as if Zanini had entirely come into his own, tackling head-on what he felt Rochas should look like. He even took a stab at evening gowns, quite a distinct entity from evening dresses and very much the leitmotif of his illustrious predecessor Olivier Theyskens. It's understandable, therefore, that Zanini would shy away from them until now. Today, his first clutch for the house were killers, Balenciaga-backed in bubbly damask, or fell dead-straight in shimmery silk.
For me, there were undeniable echoes of Audrey Hepburn, one of the most overused fashion muses in modern memory. Here, however, she felt fresh, the clothes felt informal, pin-neat and, yes, chic. Rather than Hepburn, they were reminiscent of Givenchy - Comte Hubert, that is, as opposed to the high-octane reworkings and revivals subsequently acted out under his name. Givenchy's clothes were often described as 'polite'. Zanini's were polite too - but that's not to say his softly A-line dresses and skirts, long-line flared trousers, Bucol prints in brilliant red and blue mixes and slipper-satin evening dresses didn't have a voice of their own. They did, and for once it seemed his audience were ready to hear it.