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Ungaro: From Emanuel To Amanuensis

Godfrey Deeny
March 01st, 2007 @ 12:14 AM - Paris

Few collections sum up the problems investors have of turning reputable French fashion labels into major international brands than that presented by Ungaro Thursday afternoon in Paris.

The house of Ungaro used to be called Emanuel Ungaro after its founder, but since his departure its been known as simply Ungaro. The absence of the name and the designer's signature colorful haute gamme sexiness was never more apparent than in the fall '07 collection unveiled in a 1,000-seater custom-built tent in a garden on the opposite side of the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.

Once, Ungaro meant luxurious tie-dyed fantasies and ravishingly rouched silk cocktails that managed to be sexy and feminine at the same time. In today's show, however, it had morphed into a Vegas idea of "glamour," where glitzy sequined robes looked more likely to be worn by a porn star receiving an award than a patrician lady embracing her lover.

That's not to say that Ungaro's current designer, the gentlemanly Norwegian Peter Dundas, is without talent. It's just that his attempt to give his own spin to the house's DNA has led him far too far away from Emanuel's original vision. Try as we might, we found it hard to understand to which woman or peer group Dundas' Ungaro was meant to be appealing to with this over-glammed aesthetic.

There were a few neat items – in particular the hussar meets ski pant trousers that had panache and a great silhouette, with the best of these worn by Brazilian model Raquel Zimmerman.

Dundas' time with Roberto Cavalli's design team was also apparent in the short and sassy red silk cocktails and glittering sequined mini dresses. But even these seemed understated compared with the golden plastic shard dresses and absurdly oversized padded Michelin woman coats.

It was a brow scratching moment in there for us critics and, one suspects, for Asim Abdullah, the San Francisco entrepreneur who bought the fashion house from Ferragamo in 2004.

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